Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


The Portal That Isn’t a Portal

Okay, I admit it. I’m a sucker for esoteric thought. For years I’ve been interested in Jungian psychology. I also love the occult and mysticism, whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or something else. Dreams fascinate me.

I believe that we occupy just a tiny corner of the universe and there may be alternate/parallel worlds. I think there is likely a life beyond this one, though I have no idea what it is. I’m sure that “miracles” occur, occasions when something outside of ordinary reality intervenes and shakes things up a bit. The Christ story might be one of those events. I don’t know. It’s all speculation, but it does enliven the quotidian.

This impulse of mine led me to read Patrice Chaplin’s book The Portal: An Initiate’s Journey into the Secret of Rennes-le-Chateau. It’s heralded as being an account of her initiation into a secret society that has included, apparently, such luminaries as Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Umberto Eco. Women have also partaken of this arcane group.

You may be wondering, as I did, what is Rennes-le-Chateau? According to

rennes copy, “At the end of the 19th century, Bérenger Saunière, the poor parish priest of Rennes-le-Château, all of a sudden started spending a lot more money then he could ever have earned performing his normal duties. He had been assigned to this tiny village in the south of France at the age of 33 and had spent his first few years there in piety and poverty. According to his meticulously kept accounting books, in February 1892 he had a debt of 105 francs and 80,65 francs in his ‘fonds secrets’ (savings). That all changed in the 1890s. From that time on his surviving papers and accounts record a total expenditure of some 660,000 francs, equivalent to EUR 2,500,000 today. He would spend up to 50,000 francs in one month in some periods. His salary as a priest was 900 francs per annum.”

There is much speculation as to where these funds came from. Saunière did discover some ancient documents in and around his church. Some have thought they proved that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had produced a child. Their offspring began the divine bloodline that ended in France. It’s speculated that Saunière then blackmailed the Vatican, and that was the source of his funds. This is only one of several inventions, but Chaplin also claims that Saunière was part of this ancient secret society she became part of.

The Portal is presented as if it’s a memoir of Chaplin’s participation in visiting these eleven ritual points on the Venus Magic Square. It comes complete with a female guide/initiate who leads the author from one point to the next and ensures that she meets the requirements of the journey. I didn’t believe it for a minute. For me, the narrative seemed more of a fiction. A serious “initiate” into a revered tradition would not exploit the experience in this way.

I have no complaint if Chaplin wishes to masquerade as one who has made a revelatory descent. But I like REAL mysteries, not invented ones. Yes, I do suppose there are true noviates into certain mysteries, but they remain mysteries because lengthy preparation has to be made before such a voyage can occur. And those initiates know how to keep a secret!



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