John XXII, Pope (ca. 1244–1334)
Jacques Duèse, subsequently Pope John XXII, was born at
Cahors, France. His parents were affluent, and it has even been
‘‘John King’’ Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
suggested that they belonged to the nobility. Jacques was educated
first at a Dominican priory in his native village and afterward
at Montpellier. He then proceeded to Paris, where he
studied both law and medicine.
Leaving the Sorbonne, Duèse was still at a loss as to what
profession to follow, but, chancing to become intimate with
Bishop Louis (a son of Charles II, king of Naples) the young
man decided to enter the church, doubtless prompted to this
step by the conviction that his new friend’s influence would
help him advance in his clerical career.
The future pontiff was not disappointed, for in the year
1300, at the request of the Neapolitan sovereign, he was elevated
to the episcopal see of Fréjus, then in 1308 he was appointed
chancellor of Naples. He soon showed himself a man of no
mean ability in ecclesiastical affairs. In 1310 Pope Clement V
summoned him to Avignon, anxious to consult him on the
question of the legality of suppressing the Templars and also
on whether to condemn the memory of Boniface VIII. Duèse
was in favor of suppressing the Templars but rejected condemnation
of Boniface. In 1312 Duèse was made bishop of Porto,
and four years later was elected to the pontifical crown and
scepter as Pope John XXII.
From that time on he lived at Avignon, but his life was by
no means a quiet or untroubled one. Early in his papacy the
throne of Germany became vacant. Louis of Bavaria and Frederick
of Austria both contended for it, and Pope John offended
many by supporting Frederick. Later he raised a storm by
preaching a somewhat unorthodox sermon purporting that the
souls of those who die in a state of grace go straight into Abraham’s
bosom and do not enjoy the beatific vision of the Lord
until after the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. This doctrine
was hotly opposed by many clerics, notably Thomas of England,
who had the courage to preach against it openly at Avignon.
So great was the disfavor Pope John incurred that for
several years after his death he was widely regarded as the Antichrist.
Pope John was frequently accused of avarice, and it is true
that he made stupendous efforts to raise money, imposing numerous
taxes unheard of before his papacy. He manifested
considerable ingenuity in that regard, and so the tradition that
he dabbled in hermetic philosophy (alchemy) may be founded
on fact. He did issue a stringent bull against alchemists, but it
was directed against the charlatans of the craft, not against
those who were seeking the philosophers’ stone with real earnestness
and with the aid of scientific knowledge.
The pope may have introduced this mandate to silence
those who had charged him with the practice of alchemy himself.
Whatever his reason, it is probable that he believed in
magic and was interested in science. His belief in magic is indicated
by his bringing a charge of sorcery against Géraud, bishop
of Cahors. Pope John’s scientific predilections are evident
from his keeping a laboratory in the palace at Avignon and
spending much time there.
Doubtless some of this time was given to physiological and
pathological studies, for various works of a medical nature are
ascribed to Pope John XXII, in particular a collection of prescriptions,
a treatise on diseases of the eye, and another on the
formation of the fetus. But it may well be that the ativities in his
laboratory also centered in some measure on alchemistic research.
This theory is strengthened by the fact that Pope John
was friends with Arnold de Villanova, famous physician, astrologer,
and alchemist.
Among the writings attributed to Pope John XXII is the alchemical
work L’Elixir des philosophers, autrement L’art transmutatoire,
published at Lyons in 1557.
When he died the pontiff left behind him a vast sum of
money and a mass of priceless jewels. It was commonly asserted
among the alchemists of the day that the money, jewels, and
200 huge ingots were all manufactured by the late pope. The
story of the unbounded wealth amassed in this way gradually
blossomed and bore fruit, and one of the pope’s medieval biographers
credited him with having concocted an enormous
quantity of gold.

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