So concludes what Levi considered to be his testament, his most important and final treatise, and a summation of his esoteric philosophy. This volume is the conclusion of the work he started as Book One, The Heiratic Mystery or the Traditional Documents of High Initiation, published as The Book of Splendours (Weiser, 1984). The Great Secret contains his final two works. In Book Two, The Royal Mystery or Art of Subduing the Powers, Levi discusses such topics as Evil, the Outer Darkness, the Great Secret, Magical Sacrifice, Evocations, the Arcana of Solomon's Ring, and the Terrible Secret. In Book Three, The Sacerdotal Mystery or the Art of being Served by Spirits, he expounds on the subjects of Aberrant Forces, the Chaining of the Devil, Sacred and Accursed Rites, Divination, Dark Intelligence, and the Great Arcanum.
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About the Author
Alphonse Louis Constant, better know by his pen name Eliphas Levi, was a master of the traditional Rosicrucian interpretation of the Kabbalah. He was born in France in 1810, and through the offices of the parish priest, was educated for the church at SaintSulpice. He was later expelled from seminary for teaching doctrines contrary to those of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1824 Levi began studying the occult sciences, and wrote about magic and the Kabbalah for the next three decades. His other books include Transcendental Magic, Mysteries of the Qabalah, and The Book of Splendours.
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The Great Secret, Or, Occultism Unveiled
By ELIPHAS LÉVI
Samuel Weiser, Inc.Copyright © 2000 Samuel Weiser, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Magnetism is a force analogous to that of the ordinary magnet, and permeates the whole of nature.
Its characteristics are: attraction, repulsion and a balanced polarization.
Science takes account of celestial and mineral magnetism. Animal magnetism is exhibited daily in facts which science is unable to deny; but it regards them with mistrust, and rightly waits to admit them whenever analysis can be supplemented by an incontrovertible synthesis.
It is well known that the magnetic state produced by animal magnetism brings about an unusual type of sleep during which the soul of the magnetized individual falls under domination of the magnetizer, with this peculiarity that the sleeper sees to leave his own life unoccupied and shows only those phenomena which belong to the universal life. He reflects the thoughts of others, sees without using his eyes, visits all places without any recognition of space, perceives forms much better than colours, foreshortens or confuses periods of time, speaks of the future as if it were past and of the past as if it were still to come, tells the magnetizer the latter's thoughts — even the secret voice of his conscience, summons into his memory the people of whom he is thinking and describes them in the greatest detail, even though the clairvoyant has never seen them, speaks the language of science like a scholar and that of the imagination like a poet, diagnoses diseases and finds the remedies for them, often imparts wise advice, suffers with those who suffer and sometimes cries bitterly beforehand when revealing the distress which has to come.
These strange but incontestable facts lead us to the necessary conclusion that there is a common life shared by all souls; or at least a common mirror for every imagination and every memory, in which it is possible for us to gaze at one another like a crowd of people standing before a glass. This reflector is the odic light of Baron Reichenbach, which we call the astral light, and is the great agency of life termed od, ob and aour by the Hebrews. The magnetism controlled by the will of the operator is Od; that of passive clairvoyance is Ob: the pythonesses of antiquity were clairvoyantes intoxicated with the passive astral light. This light is called the spirit of Python in our holy books, because in Greek mythology the serpent Python is its allegorical representative.
In its double action, it is also represented by the serpent of the caduceus: the right-hand serpent is Od, the one on the left is Ob and, in the middle, at the top of the hermetic staff, shines the golden globe which represents Aour, or light in equilibrium.
Od represents life governed by free choice, Ob represents life ruled by fate. This is why the Hebrew Law-giver said: 'Woe to those who divine by Ob, because they evoke fate, which is an offence against the providence of God and the liberty of man.'
Certainly, there is a wide difference between the serpent Python, which crawled in the mud of the deluge and was shot by the sun's arrows, and that which coils around the rod of Aesculapius, just as the tempter serpent of Eden differs from the brazen serpent which cured those who were poisoned in the desert. These two antagonistic serpents really stand for those contrary forces which may be connected but never confused. Hermes' sceptre, while keeping them apart, also reconciles them, and even unites them in a way; and this is how, under the penetrating eyes of science, harmony arises from the analogy of contraries.
Necessity and Liberty, these are the two great laws of life; and properly speaking these two laws only make one, because they are both indispensable.
Necessity without liberty would be fatal, even as liberty without its necessary curb would go insane. Privilege without obligation is folly, and obligation without privilege is slavery.
The whole secret of magnetism lies here: to rule the fatality of the ob by intelligence and the power of the od so as to create the perfect balance of aour.
When an unbalanced magnetizer, who has been made the slave of fate by the passions that master him, tries to operate on the light of fate, he is like a blindfold man on a blind horse, endeavouring to spur it into a gallop in a forest full of winding tracks and cliff-edges.
The fortune-tellers, the card-readers, the clairvoyants are all of them the subjects of hallucination who make their predictions by ob.
The glass of water in hydromancy, the tarot of Etteila, the lines in the palm, etc., produce a kind of hypnotism in the seer. Thus he regards his consultant in the reflection of his own silly desires or greedy imaginations; and because he is himself a spirit without dignity or nobility of will, he divines his client's follies and suggests to him even greater ones, which is all a part of his success so he thinks.
A card-reader who counselled honesty and upright behaviour would soon lose his clientele of kept women and hysterical old maids.
The two magnetic lights may be called one the living light and the other the dead light, one the astral fluid and the other the spectral phosphorus, one the torch of discourse and the other the smoke of dreams.
To magnetize without danger, it is essential to have within oneself the light of life, that is to say it is necessary to be wise and righteous.
The man who is a slave to his passions does not magnetize, he fascinates; but in radiating his fascination he enlarges the giddy circle around him; he multiplies his spells and saps his will power more and more. He is like a spider which wears itself out and is finally caught in its own web.
Humanity has not yet known the supreme rule of reason, even today; they mistake it for each man's personal and almost always erroneous rationalizing. However, Mr de La Palice himself would tell them that he who deceives himself is not a man of reason, for reason is just the exact opposite of our errors.
The individuals and masses who are not governed by reason are the slaves of fate; fate makes public opinion and opinion is queen of the world.
Men want to be dominated, tranquillized and led away. The major cravings seem more beautiful to them than virtues do, and those whom they call great men are often the big fools. The cynicism of Diogenes pleases them like the charlatanism of Empedocles. There would be none they would admire so much as Ajax and Capaneus if Polyeucte had not been wilder still. Pyramus and Thisbe — who killed themselves — are the model lovers. The author of a paradox is always certain to make his name. And the world in its spite and envy has tried in vain to consign the name of Erostratus to oblivion, this name is so abnormal that it survives in their anger and imprints itself eternally on their memory!
The fools then are magnetizers or rather fascinators, and this is what makes their folly contagious. Because they have failed to measure true greatness, people get taken up with what is exotic.
Children who have not yet learnt to walk wish to be picked up and carried about.
Nobody likes wild behaviour as much as the impotent do. It is their incapacity for pleasure which makes characters like Tiberius and Messalina. The Parisian street-arab in his paradise on the boulevards would like to be a bandit and laughs uproariously on seeing Telemachus ridiculed.
Not everybody has the inclinations of drug addicts or alcoholics, but almost everyone would like to get his spirit 'high' and would be happy enough if his heart 'went on a trip'.
When Christianity imposed itself on the world by the fascination of martyrdom, a great writer of that period put the thoughts of everyone into words when he said: 'believe because it is irrational!'
The foolishness of the Cross, as Saint Paul himself called it, was then on its invincible march. The books of the adepts were burnt, and Saint Paul at Ephesus preluded the exploits of Omar. The temples were demolished which had been the wonders of the world, and the idols which had been artistic masterpieces. People developed the taste for death and wanted to despoil their transient existence of all its ornaments so that they might withdraw from life.
A distaste for realities always goes with a love of dreams: Quam sordet tellus dum coelum aspkio! said a famous mystic. This means literally: How sordid the earth becomes when I look at the sky! How so; does your nurse, the earth, get dirty when your gaze loses itself in space? What is the earth then, if she is not a heavenly body? Perhaps she is dirty because she has to carry you around with her? No doubt if you were transported to the sun, the sun would soon appear tarnished to your finicky eye! Would the sky be a better place if it were empty? Isn't it just the point that it is so wonderful to look at because it lights up the earth by day and, in the night, shines with a countless multitude of earths and suns? What, the splended earth, the earth of immense oceans, the earth so full of trees and flowers becomes filth to you because you want to be launched into space? Believe me, you do not need to travel far for that: the void is in your spirit and in your heart!
It is the love of dreams which mixes so much suffering with the dreams of love. Love, as it is given to us by nature, is a delightful reality, but our unhealthy pride looks for something better than nature; hence the hysterical mania of the misunderstood. The thought of Charlotte, in Werther's head, is fatally transformed — as is only inevitable — into the shape of a pistol bullet. The outcome of preposterous love is suicide.
True love, natural love, is the miracle of magnetism. It is the intertwining of the two serpents of the caduceus. Its generation looks fated, but it is brought into being by the supreme reason which produces it according to natural laws. It is fabled that Tiresias incurred the wrath of Venus for separating two serpents who were copulating, and became a hermaphrodite: which neutralized his sexual potency; then the angry goddess struck him again, blinding him, because he had claimed for the woman that which was mainly the right of the man. Tiresias was a soothsayer who prophesied by means of the dead light. His predictions, too, announced misfortunes, and always seemed to be caused by misfortunes. This allegory sums up the entire philosophy of magnetism which we have just revealed.
Evil, in so far as it exists, is the affirmation of disorder. Now, in the presence of the eternal order, disorder is essentially transitory. In the presence of the absolute order, which is the will of God, disorder is only relative. Hence the absolute affirmation of disorder and evil is fundamentally a lie.
The absolute affirmation of evil is the denial of God, since God is the supreme and absolute source of good.
Evil is the denial of reason in the philosophical world. It is the denial of responsibility in the social world. It is opposition to the inviolable laws of nature in the physical world.
Suffering is not an evil, it is the consequence and nearly always the remedy of evil.
Nothing which is naturally inevitable can possibly be an evil. Winter, night and death are not evils. They are the natural transitions from one day to another day, from autumn to spring, from one life to another life.
Proudhon has said 'God is what is evil'; which is as much as to say: God is the devil, because the devil is usually taken as the spirit of evil. If we reverse the proposition, we get this paradoxical formula: The devil is God, or in other words: evil is God. But of course, in talking like this, the king of logicians whom we have quoted was not trying to designate the hypothetical personification of good under the name of God. He was dreaming of some impossible divinity imagined by men and we will agree that he was right in explaining his thought in this way, for the devil is the caricature of God, and that which we call evil is good, badly defined and poorly understood.
We should not know how to love evil for evil's sake, and disorder for the sake of disorder. The infringement of the laws pleases us because it seems to place us above the law. Men were not made for the law, but the law has been made for men, to paraphrase the saying of Jesus which the priests of his time found so subversive and impious, a saying which human pride could abuse so monstrously. If someone says to us that God has rights but not responsibilities because He is stronger than we are, we say that this is what we mean by an impious saying. He may even dare to add that God is everything to us, but we are nothing to Him, whereas the contrary is true. God, who is infinitely greater than us, contracted an infinite debt in putting us into the world. He has dug the pit of human weakness which only He can fill in.
The absurd baseness of tyranny in the ancient world has bequeathed us the phantom of a god who is absurd and mean, who would make an eternal miracle to force a finite being to exist through infinite sufferings.
Let us suppose for a moment that one of us has been able to create an ephemeral being and has said to it, without its being able xo hear it: 'My creature, worship me!' The poor little creature scuttles about without a thought in its head. When its day is over and it dies, a necromancer says to the man that by pouring a drop of his blood on it he is able to resurrect the ephemeral creature.
The man takes offence — I would do the same if I were in his place — here is the resuscitated creature. What is the man going to do? I will tell you what he will do, exclaims a fanatic believer. Seeing that the creature in its former life did not have the wit to adore him, he will light a terrible brazier and hurl the creature into it, only regretting that he has not got the power to preserve its life miraculously in the midst of the flames so that it will burn eternally! — We know that everybody will say that nowhere could such a mad fool be found as base or as wicked as that! — Please forgive me, some of you Christians, the man in question certainly does not exist, I am convinced of that; but there does exist, in your imagination only I hasten to add, someone most cruel and base. It is your idea of God, as you explain Him, and it is of this idea that Proudhon had a thousand-fold reason for saying: (a) God (like this) is evil.
In this sense evil would be the deceitful affirmation of an evil god, and it is such a god who would be the devil or someone like him. A religion which offered such a balm for the sores of humanity would poison it instead of curing it. Spirits would be brutalized and consciences would become depraved, and the propaganda made in the name of such a god could be termed the evil magnetism. The result of falsehood is injustice, and from injustice there flows the iniquity which raises anarchy in states and in individuals; disintegration and death.
A lie cannot exist without evoking in the dead light a sort of spectral verity, and all the liars in life deceive themselves first of all in taking night for day. The anarchist thinks he is free, the thief thinks he is clever, the womanizer thinks he is enjoying himself, the dictator thinks that oppression is governing. What is required to destroy evil on the earth? Something which looks very simple: the enlightenment of the dolts and the vicious. But here all goodwill fails and all efforts founder; the vicious and the dolts have no wish to be enlightened. We have come up against that secret perversity which seems to be the root of the trouble, the relish tor disorder and the attachment to error. It is our opinion that this perversity is not really something which is freely accepted and desired, but is nothing else than the poisoning of the will by the deleterious force of error.
The air we breath consists, as you know, of oxygen and nitrogen. The oxygen corresponds to the light of life and the nitrogen to the light of death. A man who was plunged into nitrogen would be unable to breathe or live; in the same way, a man who has been asphyxiated by the spectral light is no longer able to act of his own free will. It is not in the atmosphere that the great phenomenon of light takes place, it is in eyes which have been formed to see. One day, a philosopher of the positivist school, Mr Littré if I remember correctly, declared that infinity is nothing more than an endless night punctuated here and there by one or two stars. This is true, someone will say, for our eyes, which have not been made to perceive any other radiance than the light of the sun. But does not the very idea of this light appear to us when dreaming, while the earth is shrouded in night and our eyes are shut? What is the day belonging to souls? How does one see by means of thought? Would the night of our eyes exist for eyes which were constructed in some other way? And if our eyes were non-existent, would we have any awareness of the night? There are neither stars nor sun to the blind; and if we blindfold our eyes we become blind voluntarily. The perversity of the senses just like that of the faculties of the soul results from an accident or from some first offence against the laws of nature; it then becomes necessary and has the appearance of being fated. What is to be done with the blind? — They must be taken by the hand and led. — But what if they do not want to be led? — Guard-rails will have to be erected. — But suppose they knock them down? — In that case they are not simply blind, but dangerous lunatics and the best thing to do is to let them perish if they cannot be locked up.
Excerpted from The Great Secret, Or, Occultism Unveiled by ELIPHAS LÉVI. Copyright © 2000 Samuel Weiser, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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Table of Contents
Preface by R. A. Gilbert
Baron Spedalieri's Letter
BOOK TWO The Royal Mystery or the Art of Subduing the Powers
III Joint Liability in Evil
IV The Double Chain
V The Outer Darkness
VI The Great Secret
VII The Creating and Transforming Power
VIII The Astral Emanations and Magnetic Projections
IX The Magical Sacrifice
XI The Arcana of Solomon's Ring
XII The Terrible Secret
BOOK THREE The Sacerdotal Mystery or the Art of being Served by Spirits
I Aberrant Forces
II The Powers of the Priests
III The Chaining of the Devil
IV The Supernatural and the Divine
V Sacred Rites and Accursed Rites
VI Concerning Divination
VII The Point of Balance
VIII The End Points
IX Perpetual Motion
X The Magnetism of Evil
XI Fatal Love
XII Creative Omnipotence
XIV Dark Intelligence
XV The Great Arcanum
XVI The Agony of Solomon
XVII The Magnetism of Good
About the Author