The Master Philippe de Lyon

Philippe Anthelme Nizier was born in 1849. From a very young age, he was known for his “strange powers” and some even pondered whether he might not be the returned Jesus. After his death in 1905, he would be seen as a master – “Maître Philippe”. Mastering his powers came naturally, and from a young age; there is no evidence that he ever studied with or under anyone to refine or control them: “I was not even six years old and already the village priest was worried about certain manifestations, about which I was not yet aware. At the age of thirteen, I acquired the powers to heal, even though I was still incapable of taking account of the strange things that went on inside of me.” But despite no total understanding of what he was, it meant that “Master Philippe” had begun his life as a healer.
Though “blessed” with this gift, no-one in his vicinity pushed him into becoming a healer. In fact, fourteen years old, he became an apprentice butcher with his uncle in Lyon. It was there that he would, for the first time, publically show his healing abilities. When he cut the tendons of his thumb and index of the left hand while gutting an animal, he repositioned the thumb that was partially severed, bleeding profusely, and began to pray. He asked God to reconnect the thumb back to the hand; a few moments later, the blood coagulated, and the miracle occurred. When a doctor inspected the wound in hospital shortly afterwards, he merely applied a protective bandage, noting the wound was not likely to infect. But despite such miraculous healing, when he enlisted for war in 1870, it is known that he did not remain an active soldier for long, because of this injury.

The miraculous healing of this injury soon spread throughout the quarter, and the young butcher was solicited for the smallest of accidents. It meant that he had to choose in which direction to take his life forward, and after a series of “séances”, in which he healed the sick, in 1872, he decided to open a cabinet, in his adopted town of Lyon, where people could come to consult him on an individual basis. The career from butcher to healer had a further advantage: he had wanted to study, but had not been allowed; now, he wanted to recommence his studies, and train in medicine.
Medicine, then as now, was modern medicine, focusing on diagnosis and the prescription of a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to help the patient. Nizier was closer to the “primitive shamans”, who conformed to an “old vision” of healing, in which the task of the doctor was to literally restore health, rather than diagnose and prescribe. As such, Nizier was able to heal better than most doctors, but through unconventional methods. Unsurprisingly, this caused jealousy with fellow students and assistants, if only because their “science” – their methodology – was clearly not present in such miraculous healings.
Still, his formal education added a new dimension to his healing skill: Nizier would become an even better analyst. When a young woman complained that she was short of breath, suffered violent pains on her side and could hardly stand, everyone in his class was unable to diagnose her. But Nizier stated she suffered from a double pulmonary embolism – a very scientific proclamation – followed by the almost biblical “Stand up, now you are healed”. The patient stood up, and immediately no longer felt any pain.
The sceptical mind will argue that her illness itself was imaginary and Nizier was solely able to convince her she was now healed – but Nizier was able to perform this feat time and again. One day, he saw a sick man crying in his bed, because his leg was to be amputated the following day. He assured him that would not be the case. Indeed, the following day, the surgeon saw that the leg was healing, no longer requiring the amputation, and asked how this could be, whereupon the sick man replied “it was this small monsieur there who attended to me.”

If all imaginary or a stroke of luck, at best, his colleagues should have asked him how they too could acquire such a convincing tone that their patients too would think they were healed purely by the words uttered by the doctor. Alas, rather than praise Nizier for his diagnostic and healing capabilities, which in this case were performed in the presence of his superiors and fellow students, all focused on the fact that he had treated someone without having the proper degree; his licence to work at the hospital was soon revoked, noting as reason that “he performs occult medicine and is a veritable charlatan”. It would be part of a series of problems Master Philippe had with the French medical hierarchy.
As these things go, his harsh treatment by the corridors of power strengthened public belief on the streets; to some extent, it was confirmation that Nizier worked outside the bounds of normal science – with the specific distinction that he was able to perform more than normal science had so far accomplished. And as his reputation grew, so did the stories; some even claimed he had been able to resurrect a person from the dead, thus definitely putting him on par with at least one biblical character!
Even though he had his licence revoked for treating someone without having the proper degree, it was about all the authorities could do. “Master Philippe” seldom touched his patients, so they could not go for more outlandish claims of malpractice, if not worse. In his rapport with the patient, he merely asked that person to morally engage himself, to reform himself, and call upon the help of God in the healing process. It was very “clean”, and hence difficult to sanction further than they already had.

Meanwhile, in his personal life, he had married Jeanne Landar, in 1877. They had met in 1875, when his future mother-in-law brought her daughter, who was sick, to see him. He healed her and she began to attend his séances. Once married, they had two children. The eldest, Jeanne Victoire, was born in 1878 and herself married a doctor in 1897. In 1881, a son, Albert, was born, but he died three months old.
By that year, his fame had spread far outside the Lyon region; he treated the Bey of Tunis in 1881 and though at home he was not even given the title of doctor, in 1884, he was granted a doctorate in Medicine by the University of Cincinnati; in 1885, the city of Acri in Italy made him an Honorary Citizen, for his “scientific and humanitarian merits” and in 1886, the Royal Academy of Rome gave him the honorary title of Doctor of Medicine. However, back at home, on November 3, 1887, he was condemned for illegally practicing medicine; a second condemnation followed in 1890.
The latter year was the start of a decade in which he would make powerful friends. One of these was Gérard Encausse, better known as Papus, best known as an occultist, but first and foremost a qualified doctor. Many scholars of occult history have written about Papus, noting how he lead several influential secret societies in France, but few have underlined how Papus and Master Philippe were very close friends, having met under exceptional circumstances.
There is more than one version about how the two met. The standard account is that Papus was practicing in his home for an occult ritual, and was about to enter the magical circle, armed with a ceremonial sword, not knowing that the ritual would lead to his imminent death. Master Philippe was casually passing through the street and was inspired to open Papus’ front door, enter without permission, to find its resident about to perform the ritual. Master Philippe told him to stop, thus saving his life, to become his guide and close friend. Another version says that Papus had previously seen Master Philippe in a dream and instantly recognised him as his “saviour”.
The extent of their friendship is best illustrated by noting that Philippe became godfather to Encausse’s son, who was named Philippe, and who later wrote a book called “Le Maître Philippe, de Lyon”.

Despite becoming best friends, they did not share all values together. Papus was very much an adept of secret societies, whereas Nizier argued that “secret societies have no value. They have never done any good except to themselves. They all practice despotism, and it should not be like that. We are all brothers, we need to help each other and not have any secrets, everything needs to be in the light. There should not be preferences.”
Their friendship did direct Papus away from magic, towards “true magic”. Rather than a series of robotic actions that were designed to bring about an end result (very much like a doctor prescribing his pharmaceutical cocktail), Papus wanted to know real magic and for this, he became a student of a “real shaman”, Master Philippe.
Thus, Encausse himself went on to assist in several of Nizier’s healings and wanted to comprehend “true healing”, rather than “qualified doctorship”. He also provided testimony to what Nizier performed, stating it was genuine, and not some magic trick. Encausse wrote how with one healing, he and two other doctors were present when a young mother brought in her five year old child; the doctors diagnosed the boy suffering from a far advanced form of tuberculose meningitis. Encausse noted that Nizier, when trying to heal people, often worked in the presence of 80 to 100 people, and that he usually tried to get the group in a positive mindset. He did so in the case of this child, telling the group that for a period of two hours, they should not speak anything bad about those not present. Two hours later, the small child was healed, as testified by the doctors present. The presence of a positive group mind-set thus seems to have played a role in Philippe’s healings, though was obviously not a requirement, as he was able to heal in one-on-one situations too.
In 1893, Hector Durville founded a School of Magnetism in Paris, with the help of Papus, who wanted Master Philippe to open a similar school in Lyon, which he did in October 1895. However, all are in agreement that this “school” had little to do with magnetism and that it was largely Philippe doing what he did before: his own specific way of healing. Indeed, it is unclear why Papus would have insisted that Philippe practiced something that might help some with no native abilities, but which would obviously have limited Nizier in using his own abilities. Alternatively, perhaps Papus was hoping that with Master Philippe’s help, magnetism might become a more powerful method of healing than it was, thus bringing about “medicine that would heal”.

A lot has been written about Papus’ connection to the Russian court, but what is less-known, is the prominent role of Master Philippe in this. In September 1900, grand-duke Vladimir was one of several Russian nobles that visited Philippe in Lyon. When he had returned to Russia, he called upon the Master, who left on December 29, 1900 and would stay in Russia for two months. Another Russian noble’s notes reveal how he met Nizier during mass in Fourvière, the “high town” of Lyon. The priest’s sermon had tackled the notion that the miracles reported in the bible should not be taken literally. After the end of mass, Philippe wanted to speak to the priest and told him he was wrong. “May thunder strike this church if I can believe these things”, he said. Nizier apparently looked the priest in the eyes, made a gesture and immediately, lightning appeared inside the cathedral, with it striking at their feet, followed by a loud thunder. The display left the Russian noble visibly impressed. In further documentation about his Russian exploits, it was even reported that in Russia, Nizier was seen as a magus, and had even been able to calm a storm! “And I was told many other marvels.”
From then on, when members of the Russian royal household came to France, some would visit him in Lyon. It is how Nizier got to see the emperor and his wife in 1901. They too would invite him back to Russia, an invitation he accepted; his daughter and her husband accompanied him on this trip.