June 2006

Welcome to 17 Questions; a forum for the interdisciplinary study of Rennes-le-Chateau and related conundrums.

Arcadia’s currently featured guest is researcher and writer, Philip Coppens.

Philip Coppens

Philip relaxing during our interview © Andrew Gough


Philip is one of the most respected researchers and writers on the scene today. One must look no further than his excellent website, to catch a glimpse of his impressive credentials:

Philip co-established Frontier Magazine, and has overseen the Frontier Sciences Foundation, which has grown to incorporate, amongst others, Frontier Bookshop and Frontier Publishing. Philip is also the president of the English branch of the Société Perillos.

He is the author of The Stone Puzzle of Rosslyn Chapel (2002), and The Canopus Revelation (2004). He has edited Saunière’s Model and the Secret of Rennes-le-Château (2001), by André Douzet, detailing the existence of a scale model of an enigmatic landscape that might unveil the true secret of the enigmatic priest. Together, they have written The Secret Vault (2006), on the existence of an underground complex in Notre-Dame-de-Marceille.

He is the author of Dutch-language books, including one on the megalithic civilisation of Western Europe, and another high-level introduction to the mysteries incorporated in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

In 1999, he was the principal researcher for Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince’s The Stargate Conspiracy, which investigated current politician’s apparent obsession with ancient Egypt.



Philip, hi. I am delighted to welcome you to Arcadia’s inaugural segment of 17 Questions. Let us begin.

1. With respect to 17, remind us of your fascinating theory on the origins of this enigmatic number?

My only contribution to that debate is to highlight the importance of the 17th day of the New Year. This day is of tremendous importance in the mystery of Rennes-le-Château – but no-one really knows why. Together with Isaac Ben Jacob, who has researched the life and specifically the source of income of Béranger Saunière, we noted that the "Festival of Wagy", a feast of the dead, was held on the 17th day of the New Year – which in Egypt did not fall on January 1, of course. But we wondered whether someone had "lifted it" from one calendar and installed it into our calendar.

Ben Jacob’s research has shown that Saunière was sponsored by an organisation known as the Achconfraternity of La Sanch, which is based in Perpignan. These people were – and could still be – involved in certain intriguing rites, which may explain the importance of January 17 as a "Festival of the Dead".

2. In your assessment, what is the current state of scholarly ‘research’?

They too are victims of our time. Science has become too bureaucratic. Furthermore, they live in an ivory tower – like politicians – and sound off against people that come in from the outside. But it was an "outsider" like Gerald Hawkins who wrote Beyond Stonehenge in the late 1960s and now, everyone is labelling archaeoastronomy a scientific discipline. How quick we forget the controversy Hawkins created back then!

When I look at what amateurs discover in the field of archaeology and what archaeologists do, it is clear that where there is a need for "enterprise" and a sense of exploration, amateurs win time and again. Sam Osmanagich in the Bosnian Pyramids is one such example. Even if there are no pyramids there, scientists do nothing but ridicule and try to assassinate his character. They should find out what the first plane to Sarajevo is and whether they need to buy their shovel there, or take it with them. If they are concerned about the remains of a village on top, let them help the expedition and dig up that area.

Of course, they are not all like that. Like in every field, there are some very clever ones, and we should listen to them. And some, like Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner, have recently become remarkably refreshing in their interpretation of the pyramids. That’s good to see.

3. Do you believe that the increased interest in all things esoteric will last, or is it just a transient Dan Brown phenomenon?

It depends how the current interest will transform itself. We need to stop debating whether Mary Magdalene married Jesus or not. So what? I agree with Dan Brown that we need to reanalyse the origins of the gospels, and take the Gnostic Gospels and everything else once again into account. But apart from National Geographic with The Gospel of Judas, I don’t see too many people doing that.

A lot will depend on whether people like Picknett & Prince, who are part of the foundation of the Dan Brown phenomenon, can transform our perception of early Christianity. I believe they are working on a new book, to appear in 2008. This needs to go far beyond banging on about the "sacred female" and "Mary Magdalene" (which everyone does these days) or whether or not Jesus usurped the role of John the Baptist. It needs to involve what the message of Jesus was as it comes about in the Gnostic gospels, and whether that message was his, and if not, where it came from… This redefinition of "Christ’s message" could bring about a lasting effect, for the Dan Brown phenomenon is really only applicable within the Christian world… and for Christians.

4. At the same time, while the public at large has become acclimated to various esoteric mysteries, does it not seem like the established esoteric guard have become increasingly sceptical, almost negative, abut the existence of unexplained mysteries? Or have they just become wiser with age?

I think there is the "old guard" and the "new applicants". People like Daniel Pinchbeck, Dean Radin, John Major Jenkins, Jeremy Narby are definitely new voices preaching from an intriguing hymn sheet. Some, like Graham Hancock, have transformed themselves; some will always remain one-timers. People like Amit Goswami should reach a wider audience. But there are also other inroads, such as the Harry Potter novels, Dan Brown and several others, who try to do it via fiction – like some do it with movies, such as The Matrix, or Star Wars.

Some, like Javier Sierra, do an interesting mixture of "solid research" in the field, as well as converting that into a novel. Colin Bennett said in 2002 that "truth" no longer could be established and we lived in a world of "faction". The "guards" may have tremendous difficulty with that, which was best seen and continues to be seen in the world of UFOs: hard-wired ET craft, or "archetypes"? And, of course, some believe they are part of the "guard" but are really just tourists looking at the changing of the guards… and tourists always have opinions…

5. Is there a sense of community amongst researchers and writers, or is it quite fragmented and competitive?

That really depends on the field. Most want to belong, yet as soon as they belong, they want to create controversy and set themselves apart. That is the same whether you look into UFO research, crop circle research, the mystery of Rennes-le-Château… and no doubt things like free energy as well. Many top echelon researchers don’t really "belong" to the community, though both community and researchers sometimes believe they do. But amongst this, you will find strong alliances, and quite often, they are cross-discipline, not within the same field of research.

6. What did your research for The Stargate Conspiracy reveal that Lynn and Clive did not include in their book?

There are two aspects to this: Clive and I did a lot of research, some of which he only used for The Sion Revelation recently. Some is just too complex to bring into words. But since 1999, when the book was written, I do think that my understanding of "The Nine problem" has become transformed. That is what The Stargate Conundrum on my webpage is trying to paint. Almost immediately after that writing, some key individuals from that era made contact with me, saying I was one of the few who had come close to the truth (without it being told to them), which then led to some further realisations… which I will probably never write down. At least not in the near future; not while these key people are still alive. What I will say, is this: The Stargate Conspiracy was right to focus on the Nine. But the story is bigger than when it was written back then. It is all about trying to establish a theocracy on Earth. And that’s where that story overlaps with the story of Rennes-le-Château… or rather, that of Perillos.

7. Speaking of Stargates, your book, The Canopus Revelation, discussed how the star Canopus was a stargate, ‘where man could communicate with and aspire to become gods – and enter into other dimensions.’ Really enjoyed the book, what reaction did you receive?

Mixed. Some are wild about the book; people like John Major Jenkins realised that what I was saying, fit in with the "galactic centre" hypothesis which he had worked on himself. But I really wrote "The Canopus Revelation" as a very synthesised book, almost too much information crammed into one book, with variously different topics for chapters. What I am planning on doing for the near future, is almost turn every chapter in a book of its own; and I recently signed a contract to do that about the pyramid aspect.

The key of the book is not that Canopus is a stargate; I state that Canopus symbolised a stargate; it is the symbol of those that want to transform, ascend, awaken… whatever name you want to use for this alchemical process. But the book is not a guide… it paints a background, which mixes both history as well as a modern scientific setting. Really, you could say it’s a guide or manual for people wondering how to bring about a theocracy 😉

8. Now back to Perillos. Lets talk for a moment about Société Perillos ( and your work with André Douzet, specifically André’s book, Saunière’s Model and the Secret of Rennes-le-Château, which you edited. What has the reaction been to the book, and your related coverage on the Société Perillos web site? How has the hypothesis that the true Gethsemane is in the south of France been received?

The book itself has "merely" made the English language world aware of the existence of Saunière’s model. And it has created a massive impact both in France, Germany and elsewhere. It has transformed the field of Rennes-le-Château. Recently, Antoine Captier was interviewed for German television, in which he stated that the "Perillos route" was the only one worthy of being explored; all other routes (sacred geometry, a treasure in Rennes itself, etc.) have been tried, tested, and failed. Of course, some "lesser esoteric guardians" are desperately trying to keep the focus on Rennes-le-Château itself.

The hypothesis is not really that the true Gethsemane is in the south of France, rather that in the South of France, there is an area that Saunière identified as the location of a key "something" – which he labelled Tomb of Christ – which could be linked with a "major revelation". People like Cassini, Vincent Ferrer, Salvador Dali, Nostradamus, and of course Saunière, have all left their presence in the region on record… Most said Perillos could signal the end of "a" world… an apocalypse. That has some repercussions in local politics too, which I won’t go into…

9. Have you personally been to the tombs? Have you examined the evidence first hand?

I have not been to the tombs – the locations, identified as "tombs" on the model, though only one does look like a "Jewish inspired rock tomb" – myself. I have examined all the evidence first hand. I agree with André Douzet that some of this material cannot be made public at present, as it will invite treasure hunters to the area. The Société Perillos wants to bring out the knowledge and contents of this "secret" in an open, organised – proper – manner, unlike Saunière’s private digs, or other previous attempts in which there never was any "full and open disclosure". We co-operate with segments of the French government… whereas others openly work against us, as could be seen in the recent attempt of the French Ministry of Defence, which tried to make all of Perillos into a military zone.

I keep telling ourselves that everyone before us has failed, and some, like Nicolas Fouquet, had slightly more clout and money than us. So we are destined to fail, should welcome defeat… but "if" we are to succeed… wow…

10. Incredible. What’s next? When will the French Government reveal the discovery? What are they waiting for?

A government is there to hold a status quo. By default, they are – normally – elected by a majority of the people. We – promoters of the model – are there to upset this status quo. But it’s clear that times are changing. In the end, if the time if ripe, it will happen; if it doesn’t happen, it won’t. But those involved will have learned an awful lot. And that’s good enough, if that’s all that would happen…

But we will keep on fighting… victory and defeat are two impostors and I do treat them with the same disdain. Recently, we have gained the momentum of people that in essence went in exile from France over the past two centuries, fed up with the fight, believing each step that could be closer, was a step further away. We are trying to reengage these forces, some with success, others with less success… as they are given on occasion forceful reminders of "what went before". In short, "the government" lets these forces play, control them, and once there is a clear winner, there will be an outcome. Either revelation, or Perillos will die a quiet death. But if you find me on a beach on the Bahamas, retired at the age of 40, you may know it was all real, but we couldn’t bring about a "public revelation".

11. So, what was Saunière’s role in the Perillos secret? Was he aware? Who else knew? Did Abbe Gélis? Did Abbe Henri Boudet? How about Abbe Louis de Coma?

De Coma I would doubt. He was part of a "tradition", but that’s all. Boudet yes. Gélis, the murdered priest, yes. Both had been posted to Durban-Corbières, which at the time "ruled" over Perillos – the archives of Perillos were with the priest of Durban; and Boudet and Gélis were stationed there, before coming to the Rennes area. Saunière went to Durban, in search of this and other information. He was a monarchist, willing to help a monarchist – aristocratic – goal. I don’t know who exactly told it to him first, when, but it’s clear that by 1895, he was well aware; and though we don’t know exactly when he found "ground zero" in Perillos, it’s clear that by 1916, he wanted – if not was ordered – to pass on that knowledge to others – hence why he made the model.

The "secret" of Perillos really isn’t so much a secret. The locals near Opoul-Perillos, the "old guys", still remember… they have stories of "the tomb of God", a site they were told by their elders not to go to and play. There are locals who observe bizarre events in and around Perillos, but keep quiet. Our organisation is almost like a "confessional", whereby these people can finally say, in all anonymity, what they see and know, and we often don’t even shrug our shoulders when they tell what they know their wives or husbands would claim as "idiotic". This includes seeing apparitions of God, straight out of the Old Testament. Inverted rainbows.

So, in short, lots of people "know". Some are "guardians", some are searchers, and Saunière fell in the latter category. I would qualify the locals as "guardians"… and I would hope my role is that of a mediator between both.

12. So then, is there a real mystery in Rennes-le-Château, apart from Perillos?

Rennes-le-Château of course has some mysteries: it has a crypt, which we know next to nothing about. But the mystery of Saunière is not truly linked with the town he was posted in. "The Priory of Sion", i.e. the people in charge of this creation, who used Plantard as a public front, had an agenda, and pinned it on Saunière. From there, other people felt that as Saunière was a "local village priest", the mystery had to do with the "local village". But Saunière, it is now accepted by everyone, mingled in aristocratic circles, who came over to be wined and dined… he left Rennes-le-Château on numerous occasions. But he was "just" a priest… the power lay elsewhere…

13. How about your current book, The Secret Vault (2006). Very compelling stuff, and again, refreshingly original.  Do you consider the existence of an underground complex in Notre-Dame-de-Marceille to be part of the Rennes-le-Château a mystery, or is it separate?

Lots of these people lived in Limoux. Saunière knew people in Limoux, like Lasserre, Carrière, who were close to de Chambords, aristocrats of the highest echelon, married to the Habsburgs, known for their desire of one Europe ruled by one monarch and the Spear of Destiny.

Notre-Dame-de-Marceille is a suburb of Limoux. Billard bought it in his own name. Boudet wrote about it. When Jos Bertaulet wrote about it in 1991, it was a totally unknown dimension to the mystery of Rennes-le-Château. Since, it has become part and parcel of the "enigma", and some, like Franck Daffos in France, seem to now claim they have all discovered it first and alone. Seeing he wrote about it in 2004, I beg to differ.

So it is part of it, but though I have a good idea how it fits, I, unlike Franck Daffos, won’t go public with a hypothesis, only to see, as is happening with Daffos, to realise you are falling flat on your face as the hypothesis does not remain intact as new evidence comes about. Once I have some missing pieces of the puzzle, "all" can be put right.

14. Here’s another loaded question; what about the Priory of Sion? Real or fiction?

Both. We have made it into something fictional. They never claimed to protect the bloodline of Christ. Nor have the body of Mary Magdalene. But Pierre Plantard was a real person. Was he a sad loner? A trickster? I see him as a man charged with a mission. But then it all ran away from him, largely due to Henry Lincoln’s linking the Priory with "the bloodline of Christ".

15. Returning to the Kings of Aragon and the lords of Perillos, which are central to your current research, what can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Without giving too much away. Difficult. That the kings of Aragon possessed a tremendous secret, an artefact even, which was very, very important. The Perillos family was their right hand man, and they helped them to safeguard this, once the Aragon kings realised they were not up to the task. The Perillos family just "buried" it and then desperately tried not to be linked with it, and even move abroad. Soon afterwards, desperate struggles to find it began. And, no, it’s not the Ark of the Covenant… though it comes close.

16. Was Wolfram von Eschenbach an initiate of sorts, or was he just tapping into the stories and legends of the Troubadours that had travelled North after the demise of the Cathars?

He was a historian, writing family chronicles, who came across an intriguing document, and he himself saw "the Grail legend" really as a family chronicle, and blamed Chrétien for making it into something larger than purely fact and history. I don’t think he got it from Cathars or troubadours; I think he just found a family chronicle about "the Grail family", specifically Perceval’s family.

17. So what’s on the horizon then Philip? What’s next?

Intriguing you say "horizon", for I am currently working on a book about "the horizons" of the pharaohs and others – pyramids. It is an overview of how we are slowly beginning to understand what pyramids stand for, whether in Egypt, Mexico, Peru or China. It is amazing how many pyramids are being discovered since 1994 and hence, I’ve given the book a working title of "The New Pyramid Age", for it seems that is what we live in: we don’t build them this time around, we discover them!

Of course, I’ll keep help pushing the envelope of the Perillos material, and perhaps can contribute to "The Metal Library" in Ecuador, about which I recently wrote in Nexus Magazine. Finally, in a few months, there will be Land of the Gods, about the sacred landscape and lore of my adopted countryside, the Lothians, Scotland. Which really means I should get back to work…

Philip, Arcadia thanks you for your candour and insight. Fascinating stuff. Well done. Best of luck on your projects, and we’ll look forward to more great work from you in the future.