on 12 January 2013
Charlie Chaplin's daughter-in-law has done it again. She has produced a sequel to her 2003 autobiographical City of Secrets, and it kept me on the edge of my chair. It's a book that grabbed me with its captivating, almost mesmerising effect. I could not put it down.
The Portal picks up where her previous book left off, and goes into much greater depth with the story of her life since she first met her great love, José Tarres, in Girona, Spain in the 1950's.
This time we find out what Holy Blood, Holy Grail's priest, Abbé Bérenger Saunière, was actually doing on his extended sojourns away from Rennes-le-Château. In City, we learned of his Cabalistic work with a secret group in Girona, but now we delve into the substance of his search and the search of a select group Chaplin calls "the custodians." Custodians of what?
It seems that centuries ago different religious and mystical groups recognised Girona and the area of Catalonia around it as harbouring a number of planetary power points at intersections of ley lines.
From very ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, Christians, Jews, and others venerated and practiced their rituals in the area, so it's not surprising that a great deal of psychic energy has built up there over time. Cabalists, especially, have found this earthly spot very powerful.
Chaplin says, "In the twelfth century, a centre of Cabala was founded by a Jewish settlement that had existed in the province since the fourth century AD. The renowned scholar Gershom Scholem said this Girona School of Nachmanides was the most important in history." It is thought to be the location where the Zohar may have been written.
We see a number of famous personalities passing though the area from time to time, and now we know why... folks like Salvador Dali, Umberto Eco, Jean Cocteau, opera singer Emma Calve, and many more. We find from Chaplin that not all were there to satisfy their curiosity. Over the years, certain more spiritually-minded seriously undertook what can be called a pilgrimage - a physical and experiential journey of psychological transformation.
Patrice Chaplin was made privy to this, and because she wrote City of Secrets, she was chosen by the "custodians" to partake of the same pilgrimage. The Portal conveys in detail what she remembers of that journey.
Her guide, Liliane, who appears to be an advanced initiate of Girona's present day esoteric Cabala group, is a stern but understanding director of Chaplin's adventures. She even carries with her a notebook with copies of written records recounting the journeys of others who were guided on the same "path" through the Catalan countryside, including Chaplin's lover José and Abbé Saunière. We learn of their doubts and frustrations at the conditions and questions their guides imposed as we experience the doubts and frustrations of Chaplin herself.
Although the Cabalistic Tree of Life is not mentioned by name, the route she takes, walking and sometimes driving, consists of 11 locations corresponding to the 11 Sephiroth of the Tree, and also corresponding to 11 stars in the constellation Canis Major, The Great Bear, as well as 11 squares in what is called the Venus Magic Square.
At one extremity of the route is Girona, at the other is Rennes-le-Château, and between those two is the sacred Mt. Canigou, the strongest power point on the journey. Each site has attributed to it qualities, influences, elements, angelic beings, dimensions, numbers, colours, and symbols that reinforce the transformative process as one passes through.
It turns out Saunière was instructed to build his Magdalene Tower at Rennes as a copy of a very similar tower which used to exist until recent times in Girona. He faithfully accomplished this task, and the two towers stood as north (Rennes) and south (Girona) ends on an axis with Mt. Canigou as a focal point in the middle between them. Canigou, we find, is the most powerful "portal" and the final visit on the journey.
Just what is a "portal"? Let me quote some of what Liliane says to Chaplin: "Portals are in precise places at various locations on this planet. They can be approached by those sufficiently initiated to recognise the vibration and to match the resonance. A portal to the average eye is invisible. It is a passage beyond the five dimensions we know; ....Portals are not all the same.... Portals contain all that has been and all that will be."
We follow Chaplin on a kind of "roller coaster ride" as she is induced to shed her layers of conditioning and surrender her lifelong habits. She learns, for instance, that her morning cups of coffee are not necessary to her real well-being. She is able to fast for certain periods. She finds her physical endurance is greater than she thought. As she proceeds, she acquires new sources of energy and perceives familiar locations in entirely new ways, as if a veil is lifted from her. She becomes increasingly sensitive. She observes that even the stones of certain buildings house power. And, as she takes on the practices Liliane gives her, she receives new understanding of life. Nothing is as it seemed to her before.
While Liliane remains her guide in this earthly realm, the enigmatic figure of "The Lady with the Cup" becomes her inner guardian as Chaplin goes "Walking with the Great Bear" or "Treading the Seven Stars," and we see the step by step transformation of her being. She finds herself not as rigid and resistant as she begins to go with the flow of her journey. At times we, as she, do not know if she is dreaming or not, but it makes little difference because it's the transformative process that is important. She even finds from her visions she may have been a character in history in this same Catalan location.
As Chaplin passes through one "doorway" after another, she gains further insight, leading to the final "portal" atop the great mountain. And, at various times throughout her trip, the sound of the mysterious musical note F-sharp seems to reinforce her ascension as it subtly changes the material world around her.
While she learns the Cabalistic meaning of numbers and patterns and symbols like the "beheaded pyramid," such knowledge appears not to be an end in itself but part of a ritual path to higher understanding and a gateway to supernatural realms.
In the final analysis, we learn, as does Chaplin, that it is the pilgrimage that counts, not the destination. If we are truly on the journey, we will be met at the doorway and help will be given to us.
- This review first appeared in New Dawn magazine issue #123