BEHIND the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the shadows and the strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of the old temples, and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvellous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies at reception practised by all mysterious societies, traces are found of a doctrine which is everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed. Occult philosophy seems to have been the nurse or god-mother of all intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the absolute queen of society in those ages when it was reserved exclusively for the education of priests and of kings. It reigned in Persia with the magi, who at length perished, as perish all masters of the world, because they abused their power; it endowed India with the most wonderful traditions, and with an incredible wealth of poesy, grace, and terror in its emblems ; it civilised Greece to the music of the lyre of Orpheus ; it concealed the principles of all the sciences and of all human intellectual progress in the bold calculations of Pythagoras ; fable abounded in its miracles, and history, attempting to appreciate this unknown power, became confused with fable; it shook or strengthened empires by its oracles, caused tyrants to tremble on their thrones, and governed all minds, either by curiosity or by fear.
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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 Saint-Sulpice. 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.
A.E. Waite (1857-1942) is one of the best-known authors and translators of magic and the occult. He is the creator of the Rider-Waite tarot and is the author of several books including Book of Black Magic and Pictorial Keys to the Tarot.