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Magic: A History of Its Rites, Rituals, and Mysteries

Magic: A History of Its Rites, Rituals, and Mysteries

by Éliphas Lévi, A. E. Waite

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"The most arresting, entertaining, and brilliant of all studies on the subject." — Arthur Edward Waite
A great work of literature as well as a pioneering classic of occultism, this voluminous historical survey traces the roots and manifestations of magic through the ages as a secret tradition persisting from remote times. Author Éliphas Lévi,


"The most arresting, entertaining, and brilliant of all studies on the subject." — Arthur Edward Waite
A great work of literature as well as a pioneering classic of occultism, this voluminous historical survey traces the roots and manifestations of magic through the ages as a secret tradition persisting from remote times. Author Éliphas Lévi, pseudonym of Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-75), was a leader of the French occult revival, a spiritual teacher and magus who is today considered by some to be a founding father of the New Age movement. One of his most stunning (and original) revelations connects the Kabbalah with the Tarot, thus helping to inspire the ongoing fascination with the symbols of both, and their correspondences with each other. In this 1860 work, Lévi's discussions include topics that continue to intrigue modern readers, subjects as seemingly disparate as the mathematical magic of Pythagoras, magical monuments, magic and Christianity, the devil, the Knights Templar, alchemy, the illuminati, hallucinations, and many others that are equally alluring.
The first part of the book explains the principles underlying magical operations, while the second part addresses the actual ritual and practice of transcendent magic. An essential resource for the library of anyone interested in mysticism and the occult sciences, this influential work appears here in its first English translation (from the original French) by the distinguished scholar and co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, A. E. Waite.

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Dover Publications
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A History of Its Rites, Rituals and Mysteries

By Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12107-9



THE apocryphal Book of Enoch says that there were angels who consented to fall from heaven that they might have intercourse with the daughters of earth. "For in those days the sons of men having multiplied, there were born to them daughters of great beauty. And when the angels, or sons of heaven, beheld them, they were filled with desire; wherefore they said to one another: 'Come, let us choose wives from among the race of man, and let us beget children.' Their leader, Samyasa, answered thereupon and said: 'Perchance you will be wanting in the courage needed to fulfil this resolution, and then I alone shall be answerable for your fall.' But they swore that they would in no wise repent and that they would achieve their whole design. Now there were 200 who descended on Mount Armon, and it was from this time that the mountain received its designation, which signifies Mount of the Oath. Hereinafter follow the names of those angelic leaders who descended with this object: Samyasa, chief among all, Urakabarameel, Azibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Sarakuyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertrael, Turel, Jomiael, Arazial. They took wives, with whom they had intercourse, to whom also they taught Magic, the art of enchantment and the diverse properties of roots and trees. Amazarac gave instruction in all secrets of sorcerers; Barkaial was the master of those who study the stars; Akibeel manifested signs; and Azaradel taught the motions of the moon".

This legend of the Kabalistic Book of Enoch is a variant account of the same profanation of Mysteries which we meet with under another form of symbolism in the history of the sin of Adam. Those angels, the sons of God, of whom Enoch speaks, were initiates of Magic, and it was this that they communicated to profane men, using incautious women as their instruments. They split upon the rock of sense-attraction, becoming enamoured of the female sex, and the secrets of royalty and priesthood were extracted from them unawares. Primitive civilisation collapsed as a consequence, and the giants, who typified brute force and unbridled appetite, fought together for the world, which escaped only by immersion in the waters of the deluge, wherein all traces of the past were effaced. This deluge symbolised that universal confusion into which humanity is brought of necessity when it ignores and does outrage to the harmonies of Nature. There is kinship between the fall of Samyasa and that of Adam; the lure of sense seduced both; both profaned the Tree of Knowledge; and both were driven far away from the Tree of Life. It is needless here to discuss the views, or rather the simplicity, of those who take everything literally and believe that knowledge and life were once manifested under the form of trees; let us confess rather and only to the deep meaning of sacred symbols. The Tree of Knowledge does actually inflict death when its fruit is eaten; that fruit is the adornment of this world; those golden apples are the glitter of earth.

In the Arsenal Library there is a very curious manuscript entitled The Book of the Penitence of Adam, and herein Kabalistic tradition is presented under the guise of legend to the following effect: "Adam had two sons—Cain, who signifies brute force, and Abel, the type of intelligence and mildness. Agreement was impossible between them; they perished at each other's hands; and their inheritance passed to a third son, named Seth." Here is the conflict of two opposing forces diverted to the advantage of a synthetic and united force. "Now Seth, who was just, was permitted to approach as far as the entrance of the Earthly Paradise, without being threatened by the Kerub and his flaming sword." In other words, Seth represented primeval initiation. "It came to pass in this manner that Seth beheld the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, incorporated together after such a manner that they formed but a single tree"—signifying the harmony of science and religion in the transcendental Kabalah. "And the angel gave him three seeds containing the vital power of the said tree." The reference is here to the Kabalistic triad. "When Adam died, Seth, in obedience to the directions of the angel, placed the three seeds in the mouth of his father, as a token of eternal life. The saplings which sprang up from these, became the Burning Bush, in the midst of which God communicated to Moses his Eternal Name—


signifying, He Who is and is to come. Moses plucked a triple branch of the sacred bush and used it as his miraculous wand. Although separated from its root, the branch continued to live and blossom, and it was subsequently preserved in the Ark. King David planted the branch on Mount Zion, and Solomon took wood from each section of the triple trunk to make the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which were placed at the entrance of the Temple. They were covered with bronze, and the third section was inserted at the threshold of the chief gate. It was a talisman which hindered things unclean from entering within. But certain nefarious Levites removed during the night this obstacle to their unholy freedom and cast it, loaded with stones, to the bottom of the Temple reservoir. From this time forward an angel of God troubled the waters of the pool, imparting to them a miraculous value, so that men might be distracted from seeking the tree of Solomon in its depths. In the days of Jesus Christ the pool was cleansed and the Jews, finding the beam of wood, which in their eyes seemed useless, carried the latter outside the town and threw it across the brook Cedron. It was over this bridge that our Saviour passed after his arrest at night in the Garden of Olives. His executioners cast him from it into the water; and then in their haste to prepare the instrument-in-chief of His passion, they took the beam with them, which was made of three kinds of wood, and formed the cross therewith."

This allegory embodies all the great traditions of the Kabalah and the secret Christian doctrine of St. John, which is now utterly unknown. It follows that Seth, Moses, David, Solomon and Christ obtained from the same Kabalistic Tree their royal sceptres and pontifical crooks. We can understand in this manner why the Christ was adored in His manger by the Magi. Let us recur, however, to the Book of Enoch, as greater authority attaches to it than can be attributed to an unknown manuscript; the former is cited in the New Testament by the Apostle St. Jude. Tradition refers the invention of letters to Enoch, and it is to him that we must therefore trace back the teachings embodied in the Sepher Yetzirah, which is the elementary work of the Kabalah, its compiler—according to the Rabbins—being the patriarch Abraham, as the heir of the secrets of Enoch and as the father of initiation in Israel. Enoch would seem in this manner to be identical with the Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus, while the famous Book of Thoth, written throughout in hieroglyphics and in numbers, would be that occult Bible, anterior to the book of Moses and full of mysteries, to which the initiated William Postel alludes so frequently throughout his works, under the title of the Genesis of Enoch.

The Bible says that Enoch did not die, but that God translated him from one life to another. He is to return and confound Anti-Christ at the end of time, when he will be one of the last martyrs, or witnesses of truth, mentioned in the Apocalypse of St. John. That which is said of Enoch in this respect has been said also of all the great initiators recorded in Kabalism. St. John himself, according to the primitive Christians, was saved from death, and it was long thought that he could be seen breathing in his tomb. The explanation is that the absolute science of life preserves against death, as the instinct of the people has always led them to divine. However this may be, the extant memorials of Enoch are contained in two books, one of which is hieroglyphic and the other of the nature of allegory. The first comprises the hieratic keys of initiation, while the second is the history of a great profanation which caused the destruction of the world and the reign of chaos after that of the giants.

St. Methodius, a bishop in the early days of Christianity, whose writings are found in the collection of the Fathers of the Church, has left a prophetic Apocalypse which unfolds the world's history in a series of visions. It is not included among the saint's acknowledged writings, but it was preserved by the Gnostics and has been printed in the Liber Mirabilis under the assumed name of Bermechobus, which illiterate compositors have substituted in place of Bea-Methodius, an abbreviation of Beatus Methodius. This book corresponds in several respects with the allegorical treatise entitled The Penitence of Adam. It tells how Seth migrated eastward with his family and so reached a mountain in the vicinity of the Earthly Paradise. This was the country of initiates, whilst the posterity of Cain invented a spurious or debased Magic in India, the land of fratricide, and put witchcraft into the hands of the reckless.

St. Methodius predicts in a later place the struggles and successive predominance of the Ishmaelites, being the name given in his apocalypse to those who conquered the Romans; of the Franks, who overcame the Ishmaelites; and then of a great race from the North whose invasion will precede the personal reign of Anti-Christ. An universal kingdom will be founded thereafter and will fall into the hands of a French prince, after which there will be the reign of justice for a long period of years. We are not concerned with prophecy in the present place, but it is desirable to note the distinction between good and evil Magic, between the Sanctuary of the Sons of Seth and the profanation of science by the descendants of Cain. Transcendental knowledge, as a fact, is reserved for those who are masters of their passions, and virgin Nature does not deliver the keys of her nuptial chamber to adulterers.

There are two classes—freemen and slaves; man is born in the bondage of his passions, but he can reach emancipation through intelligence. Between those who are free already and those who as yet are not there is no equality possible. The part of reason is to rule and of instinct to obey. On the other hand, if you impose on the blind the office of leading the blind, both will end in the abyss. We should never forget that liberty does not consist in the licence of passion emancipated from law, which licence would prove the most hideous of tyrannies; liberation consists in willing obedience to law; it is the right to do one's duty, and only just men can be called free. Now, those who are in liberation should govern those who are in bondage, and slaves are called to be released, not from the government of the free but from the yoke of brutal passions, as a consequence of which they cannot exist without masters.

Confess with us now for a moment to the truth of the transcendental sciences. Suppose that there does actually exist a force which can be mastered and by which the miracles of Nature are made subservient to the will of man. Tell us, in such case, whether the secrets of wealth and the bonds of sympathy can be entrusted to brutal greed; the art of fascination to libertines; the supremacy over other wills to those who cannot attain the government of their proper selves. It is terrifying to reflect upon the disorders which would follow from such a profanation; some cataclysm is needed to efface the crimes of earth when all are steeped in slime and blood. Now, it is this state of things that is indicated by the allegorical history of the fall of the angels, according to The Book of Enoch; it is this which was the sin of Adam, and hereof are its fatal consequences. Of such also was the Deluge and its wreckage; of such at a later period the malediction of Canaan. The revelation of occult secrets is typified by the insolence of that son who exposes his father's nakedness. The intoxication of Noah is a lesson for the priesthood of all ages. Woe to those who lay bare the secret of divine generation to the impure gaze of the crowd. Keep the sanctuary shut, all ye who would spare your sleeping father the mockery of the imitators of Ham.

Such is the tradition of the children of Seth respecting the laws of the human hierarchy; but the latter were not acknowledged by the family of Cain. The Cainites of India invented a genesis to consecrate the oppression of the strong and to perpetuate the ignorance of the weak. Initiation became an exclusive privilege of the high castes, and entire races of humanity were doomed to unending servitude on the pretence of inferior birth: they issued, as it was said, from the feet or knees of Brahma. Now, Nature engenders neither slaves nor kings, but all men indifferently are born to labour. He who pretends that man is perfect at birth but is degraded and perverted by society is the wildest of anarchists, though he may be the most poetic of maniacs. But in vain was Jean Jacques a sentimentalist and dreamer; his deep implicit of misanthropy when explicated by the logic of fanatical partisans, bore fruits in hate and destruction. The consistent architects of the Utopia imagined by the susceptible philosopher of Geneva were Robespierre and Marat.

Society is no abstract personality that can be rendered responsible separately for the stubbornness of man; society is the association of men; it is defective by reason of their vices and sublime in respect of their virtues; but in itself it is holy, like the religion which is bound up inseparably therewith. Is not religion, as a fact, an association of the highest aspirations and the most generous endeavours? After this manner does the blasphemy of anti-social equality and of right in the teeth of duty give answer to the lie about castes privileged by Nature; Christianity alone has solved the problem by assigning supremacy to self-sacrifice and by proclaiming him as the greatest who offers up his pride for society and his appetites for the sake of the law.

Though they were the depositaries of the tradition of Seth, the Jews did not preserve it in all its purity, and were infected by the unjust ambitions of the posterity of Cain. Believing that they were a chosen people, they deemed that God had allotted them truth as a patrimony rather than as a security held in trust for humanity at large. Side by side with the sublime traditions of the Sepher Yetzirah we meet with very curious revelations among the Talmudists. For example, they do not shrink from ascribing the idolatry of the Gentiles to the patriarch Abraham himself; they say that to the Israelites he bequeathed his inheritance, namely the knowledge of the true Divine Names; in a word, the Kabalah was the lawful and hereditary property of Isaac; but the patriarch gave, as they tell us, certain presents to the children of his concubines; and by such presents they understand veiled dogmas and cryptic names, which became materialised speedily, and were transformed into idols. False religions and their absurd mysteries, oriental superstitions, with all their horrible sacrifices—what a gift from a father to his disowned family! Was it not sufficient to drive Hagar with her son into the desert? To their one loaf and their pitcher of water must he add the burden of falsehood, as a torment and poison in their exile?


Excerpted from Magic by Eliphas Levi, Arthur Edward Waite. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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