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Jacolliot, Louis

Category: Explorer or adventurer


Louis Jacolliot (31 October 1837 – 30 October 1890) was a French barrister; then a judge in India and in Tahiti (1865-1869);  he was a writer of both books and articles, especially on Indian culture; and a lecturer. 

He was born in Charolles, Saône-et-Loire, France and died in Saint-Thibault-des-Vignes (Seine-et-Marne) aged only 52.  Louis Jacolliot was mayor of Saint-Thibault-des-Vignes from 1887 to 1890 and died during his tenure.

Jacolliot was an adventurer, visiting Africa, India, and a number of other Asian countries.  He served as a colonial magistrate in Pondicherry, Chandernagor and Tahiti. Passionate about the culture of these regions, he wrote many books on Indian spirituality, historical essays and travel stories.

Jacolliot was also the author of numerous adventure novels located in the Far East, for example, The Fire Eaters (1887), The Slave Hunters (1888) and The Jungle Runner (1888). In other words he used the more serious analyses of the culture and philosophy of the places he had visited to write fiction.  His novel Lost on the Ocean, published posthumously in 1893, is representative of this use by the author of his knowledge of the landscapes and customs of New Caledonia, China and Malaysia.

Occult science in India


One could dismiss any non-fiction books Jacolliot produced as the observations of an amateur anthropologist, but one would not be doing him justice.  Jacolliot was a very keen unbiased observer, with a strong sense of curiosity.  And he was very good at spotting patterns.

His Occult science in India was written in the 1860s, when reliable information about Hinduism was just starting to filter back to the west. It is the book for which he is now probably best known.  Jacolliot’s reputation has been somewhat tarnished by the comments of the man chosen to introduce his books in English:

Introduction to Occult Science in India - J.B. Hare, June 21, 2008
Although he apparently had enough familiarity with Sanskrit to do some desultory [sic] translations of the Laws of Manu, Jacolliot was not an academic. He quotes extensively here from a text called the "Agrouchada-Parikchai," which appears to be a pastiche of the Upanishads, Hindu law books, and a bit of Freemasonry. This text does not seem to exist except in Jacolliot's imagination.

Harsh words indeed and entirely unjustified.  Pondicherry is in the south of India in Tamil Nadu.  It is a key centre for Shaivism, as such Jacolliot might well have studied the Agrouchada-Parikchai as it would not be classified as a Hindu text but a Shaivistic text.  Furthermore Mr Hare [whoever he was] did not know his Indian texts, as the Upanishads were based on Shaivistic texts, and Freemasonry was based on the mystic concepts inherent in all mystic movements. 

The ‘Laws of Manu’, more correctly the Manusmṛti (Sanskrit: मनुस्मृति), is an ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras.  The Dharmaśāstra (Sanskrit: धर्मशास्त्र) are also Sanskrit texts, rooted in Dharmasutras which date well before the 1st millennium BCE.  And these have Shaivistic roots.

The Brahma sūtras (Sanskrit: ब्रह्म सूत्र) is a text which systematizes and summarizes the Upanishads. It is one of the foundational texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy.  Jacolliot does not create a ‘pastiche’ of it, he quotes from it.

As such Louis Jacolliot has probably done us an enormous service by preserving some of the content of texts which may well have since been lost. 

For many, the high point of the book is the travelogue of his encounters in India with a fakir, who demonstrates his siddis (yogic powers) quite extensively. But Jacolliot's interest was in the mystic roots of various beliefs, and in Shaivism he believed he had found them.

Mystic roots of religion


Shaivism is one of the oldest mystic movements.  It was codified in about 6000 BC, but existed well before this date.  It is probably only pre-dated by the mystic movement of the Ancestors.  It was the precursor to the Hindu and yoga system and indeed shares a number of features, but it is a separate movement.

It existed before the Greek Mysteries, before Zoroastrianism and before even the Abrahamic religions.  In this respect it can be thought of as one of the more fundamental mystic movements from which others have gained.  The Dionysos Mysteries are a subset and the Bacchanalean Mysteries derive from it.  There is a high level of emphasis placed on spiritual experience during one’s lifetime.  There is also a spiritual path with Initiates, and Adepts. 

The three degrees

Jacolliot first noticed the similarity between Shaivism and the Kabbalah.  Shaivism at that time had three levels of initiation – the so called three degrees – and so did the Kabbalah.  From there he studied the Ancient Egyptian mystic system and the system of the Chaldeans and again found similarities, particularly the stages of initiation.  In the following he uses the term ‘Brahmin’ here to mean a spiritual Adept, not a place in the Hindu caste system:

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

There were three degrees of initiation.

  • The first included all the Brahmins of the popular cult, or those who officiated at the pagodas, whose business it was to work upon the credulity of the multitude. They were taught to … direct the religious ceremonies, and to perform sacrifices. The Brahmins of the first degree were in constant communication with the people. They were its immediate directors, its gurus.
  • The second degree included the exorcists, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the evocators of spirits, whose business it was, in times of difficulty, to act upon the imagination of the masses, through supernatural phenomena. They read and commented upon the Atharva-Veda, which was a collection of magical conjurations.
  • In the third degree the Brahmins had no direct relations with the populace, the study of all the physical and supernatural forces of the universe being their only occupation. They never appeared outside except through awe-inspiring phenomena, which spectators were not allowed to scrutinize too closely. According to the celebrated Sanscrit sorits [sic], the gods and spirits were at their disposition:

It was impossible to arrive at the highest degree without having passed through the first two, where a process of weeding, as it were, was constantly going on, having regard to the ability and intelligence of the candidates.

The lower clergy, if we may be allowed to use the expression, were not much above the level of the rest of the .. people, whose superstitions they shared, and whom they taught, perhaps, honestly. … It was not until twenty years had elapsed that promotion was possible from the first to the second degree, where the veil of the occult sciences first began to be uplifted, and the same period of time was necessary in order to surmount the mysterious barriers of the third degree.

Above this last degree of initiation was the Supreme Council, under the presidency of the Brahmatma, or supreme chief of all those who had been initiated.



Jacolliot also noticed the importance that astrology played in the old systems of initiation.  When a candidate’s wife gave birth to a son, the hour, day, year, and the epoch of the birth, together with ‘the stars under whose auspices the child had just been born’, were noted.  He remembered the New Testament story:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.

Later on in the book he also describes the very large number of astrologers that existed during his time, all ready to convert this birth date into a prediction of Personality and thus an indicator of Destiny.

Form and function – the spirits of all things

During his time in Tahiti he was able to study the Kahuna system, but very sadly he was very strongly opposed by the Catholic Church.  The Supreme Court of the State of the Protectorate of the Society Islands, for example, ordered the suppression of the pamphlet "La verité sur Tahiti".  Consequently we get no explicit mention of the Kahuna system in his books, but there is clear reference to the similarities between this and the Shaivistic belief in spirits [functions] in all things, somewhat similar to the kami in the Shinto system.

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India:  Midnight Sandya from Agrouchada-Parikchai.

Having offered the sacrifice to fire, he .. evokes the spirits of night, in the smoke of incense, saying:

Spirits of the waters,
Spirits of the forests,
Spirits of unfrequented roads,
Spirits of public places,
Spirits of sandy plains,
Spirits of the jungles,
Spirits of the mountains,
Spirits of burial places,
Spirits of the ocean,
Spirits of the wind,
Spirits of the tempest,
Spirits of salt deserts,

Destructive spirits,
Ensnaring spirits,
Spirits of the East,
Spirits of the West,
Spirits of the North,
Spirits of the South,
Spirits of darkness,
Spirits of bottomless gulfs,
Spirits of heaven,
Spirits of the earth,
Spirits of hell.



An extension of the idea of spirits pervading all things in the realm of matter, is the expression ‘as above so below’.  In other words a form is mirrored by a function that exists spiritually.  The idea is expressed in the Zohar of the Kabbala.

"The inferior world has been created in the similitude of the superior. Everything that exists in the superior world appears here below like the reflection of an image, and yet it is all only one thing." (The Zohar.)

Arks and baskets

Jacolliot was also intrigued by an ancient custom then prevalent amongst the Tamil Nadu Shaivites:


Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

the Brahmatma ….. had hardly been elected, when, notwithstanding his advanced age of eighty years, in order that his election might be held valid, he had to furnish evidence of his virile power in connection with one of the virgins of the Pagoda, who was given him as a bride.

If a male child sprang from this union he was placed in a wicker basket, and turned adrift upon the river to float with the current. If perchance he was washed ashore he was carried to the temple, where he was at once, and by virtue of that very fact, regarded as having been initiated into the third degree. From his earliest childhood, all the secret mentrams [sic], or formulas of evocation, were made known to him……


Needless to say, Jacolliot immediately made the association between the Biblical story of Moses in the bulrushes and this custom.  As he was unable to discover the origin of this custom, he decided he couldn’t tell whether it had come from Egypt or vice versa gone to Egypt.  When he compared ‘other ancient usages with the manners and customs of the sacerdotal castes in Egypt’, he found them similar in many respects to those of the Indian temples.



The next similarity Jacolliot noticed was a ‘badge of office’ that yogis were given:

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

The chief Guru who presides at the ceremony, hands him a bamboo stick containing seven joints, some lotus flowers, and powdered sandal-wood, and whispers in his ear certain mentrams [sic] of evocation, which are only made known to persons in his condition.  This stick is not intended to help support his steps or to be of any assistance to him in walking. It is the magic wand used in divination and all the occult phenomena.  It is involuntarily suggestive of the rod of Moses, Aaron, Elisha, and all the prophets, of the augural wand, and of the seven-knotted wand of the Fauns, Sylvans, and Cynics.

The Trinity and Ultimate Intelligence

One of the more extraordinary findings is that in the texts that Jacolliot found the Ultimate Intelligence or God was given a name very close to Zeus.  In his mind this pointed at least to some connection with the Greeks.

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

According to the Brahmins, the mystical meaning of the number seven contains an allegorical representation of the unrevealed God, the initial trinity, and the manifested trinity; thus:

(The Unrevealed God).
The immortal germ of everything that exists.

The initial trinity,

Zyaus, having divided his body into two parts, male and female, or Nara and Nari, produced Viradj, the Word, the Creator,

The manifested trinity,

The initial trinity, which was purely creative, changed into the manifested trinity, as soon as the universe had come out of chaos, in order to create perpetually, to preserve eternally, and to consume unceasingly.


From this Ultimate Intelligence, the split was made into the Creator and Created – symbolically the masculine and the feminine.  The final outcome was the ongoing Great Work activities of Creation, Maintenance and Destruction - AUM.

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

Listen to the hymn of eternal love:
He is one and he is two. He is two, but he is three. The one contains two principles, and the union of these two principles produces the third.
He is one and he is all, and this one contains the husband and the wife, and the love of the husband for the wife, and of the wife for the husband, produces the third, which is the son.
The husband is as ancient as the wife, and the wife is as ancient as the husband, and the son is also as ancient as the husband and wife, and the one that contains all three is called
Three in One.
The whole system, the Great All, is perpetually preserved, developed, and transformed through love.


Symbolism of all texts

Jacolliot found that the majority of the old sacred texts of Shaivism were symbolically coded to match the three degrees of initiation:

The sacred scriptures ought not to be taken in their apparent meaning, as in the case of ordinary books. Of what use would it be to forbid their revelation to the profane if their secret meaning were contained in the literal sense of the language usually employed?.....
You who, in your pride, would read the sacred scriptures without the Guru's assistance, do you even know by what letter of a word you ought to begin to read them—do you know the secret of the combination by twos and threes—do you know when the final letter becomes an initial and the initial becomes final?
Wo [sic] to him who would penetrate the real meaning of things before his head is white and he needs a cane to guide his steps.

Jacolliot was aware  that the Bible was symbolic, that at least one level of symbolism was layered over the literal meaning.  He then searched in the Kabbalah to see if there were multiple levels – and found that there were:

A. Franck's translation of La Kabbale

If the law were composed of words alone, such as the words of Esau, Hagar, Laban, and others, or those which were uttered by Balaam's ass or by Balaam himself, then why should it be called the law of truth, the perfect law, the faithful witness of God himself? Why should the sage esteem it as more valuable than gold or precious stones?
But every word contains a higher meaning; every text teaches something besides the events which it seems to describe. This superior law is the more sacred, it is the real law.



On further study, he also stated to notice the symbolism was the same.  “It appears that the fathers of the Christian church, as well as the Jewish Cabalists and the initiates in the Hindu temples, all used the same language”.  In other words there is a universal symbol system employed by mystic movements.

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

The records of the law veil its mystical meaning as the garment covers the body, as the clouds conceal the sun………………  Upon reading these pages, they will see that antiquity has derived all the scientific knowledge of life it possessed from India, and the initiates of the Hindu temples were very much like Moses, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Essenes, and the Christian apostles.

Intelligence hierarchy

In Shaivism and Hinduism, a Prajapati (Sanskrit: प्रजापति "lord of people" is an Intelligence, and thereby a King of Kings (Rajanya or Rajan).  All Intelligences are co-creators.  The Intelligences are organised into an hierarchy, but as a consequence, there are Intelligences at each ‘level’ – one for each sphere in the Egg.  This is best seen by looking at the Map of the Egg.   The so called Planets, also have a correspondence with Prajapatis.

Jacolliot believed that the ten Zephiroth of the Hebrews were substantially the same as the ten Pradjapatis of India:

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

The Zohar, which is the principal work of the Cabala, speaking of the philosophical system therein taught, says that it is precisely the same as the wisdom which the children of the East have known from the earliest times………………. While the origin of the Cabala cannot be successfully sought for either in the different systems of Greece or in the doctrines of the Alexandrian school, notwithstanding they have many points in common, or in the mystical philosophy of the Arabs; while, on the other hand, the Zohar, tracing it back to the earliest ages, speaks of it as having the East for its cradle; have we not good reason, therefore, in view of the antiquity of India and the similarity in principle of both systems, to say that the doctrine of the Cabala sprang from the doctrine of the Pitris?

The Universal philosophy

We now enter into an area which is indeed of some controversy.  First a quote:

Louis Jacolliot - Occult Science in India

Between the Trinitarian systems of Christianity and those of the Hindus, of the Cabalists, and of the Neo-platonists, the numerous points of similarity are obvious at a glance, and we can readily see the source from which the founders of that religion have derived their revelation.

We say founders, though that is not the proper name to apply to the authors of the four gospels, whose idea it was to create a tradition of their own, for it is now well settled that Christianity, which is as old as the temples of Egypt and the pagodas of India, is a symbolic synthesis of all the beliefs of antiquity.



In other words, Jacolliot believed that Christianity was an attempt to pull together all the different systems.  Given the subsequent events, I think we can sadly say it failed, as nothing of what I have just described in Shaivism survives in Christianity.

Jacolliot also went further.  In Jacolliot's book La Bible dans l'Inde, Vie de Iezeus Christna (1869) (The Bible in India, or the Life of Iezeus Christna), he compares the accounts of the life of Bhagavan Krishna with that of Jesus Christ in the Gospels and concludes that it could not have been a coincidence, so similar are the stories in so many details in his opinion.

Jacolliot does not claim that Jesus was in India as some have claimed or that he was Krishna. "Christna" is his way of spelling "Krishna" and he wrote that Krishna's disciples gave him the name "Iezeus" which means "pure essence" in Sanskrit.  In other words, since time immemorial the world has been given ‘messiahs’, Sons of God.  There is symbolically the Father and the Mother, and a number of Sons of God – pure essences that have visited the earth to help progress God’s plan – the Great Work.  It is in his book The Sons of God that he expands on this view.

In effect, he is stating that the historical figure of Jesus existed, but overlaid on the actual events of his life are a great number of extra myths, and that the account in the Gospels is based on the mythology of ancient India, it is a set of universal symbols that are common to all mystic systems.

During his time in India he collected numerous Sanskrit myths, and wove them into books, one of which is his Histoire des Vierges – the History of the Virgins. The concept of the Virgin and virgin birth appears all over the world.  It appears in India, and in Greek legend – as you will see if you follow the link.  Jacolliot then quotes from the following:

Amniance Marcellinus

The King Hytaspes, having penetrated as far as certain retired places in Upper India, came to some solitary groves, whose silence seem to be favourable to the profound thoughts of the Brahmins. There they taught him, as far as they possibly could, the pure sacrificial rites, and the causes of the movement of the stars and the universe, a part of which he communicated to the Magi. The latter have transmitted these secrets from father to son, together with the science of predicting the future. Since then, during a long succession of ages until now, there have arisen a multitude of Magi, belonging to the same race, who have devoted themselves to the service of the temple and the worship of the Gods.



All the observations for Louis are to be found under Shaivism and then under his name.