Happy in the time of Jesus were those who wept! Happy, now, are those who can laugh, because laughter is the attribute of man, as the great prophet of the Renaissance, Rabelais, said. Laughter is forbearance; laughter is philosophy. The heavens clear when they laugh, and the great secret of divine omnipotence resides in an eternal smile!
Book Two: The Royal Mystery or the Art of Subduing the Powers, Chapter V: The Outer Darkness
'Father, forgive them,' said Jesus, 'for they know not what they do' -- People of good sense whoever you may be, I will add, do not listen to them, for they know not what they say.
Book Two: The Royal Mystery or the Art of Subduing the Powers, Chapter XII: The Terrible Secret
, born Alphonse Louis Constant
(February 8, 1810 - May 31, 1875), was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...
author and purported magician.
"Eliphas Lévi," the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...
his given names "Alphonse Louis" into Hebrew
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...
although he was not Jewish.
His second wife was French sculptress Marie-Noémi Cadiot
Marie-Noémi Cadiot was a French sculptor of the 19th century.-Biography:She was the second wife of Alphonse Louis Constant, most known as Eliphas Levi. They were civilly married at the city hall of the 10th arrondissement of Paris on 13 July 1846 and had a daughter, Mary, who died in 1854 at the...
Lévi was the son of a shoemaker in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
; he attended the seminary
A seminary, theological college, or divinity school is an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students in theology, generally to prepare them for ordination as clergy or for other ministry...
of Saint Sulpice and began to study to enter the Roman Catholic priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...
hood. However, while at the seminary he fell in love, and left without being ordained. He wrote a number of minor religious works: Des Moeurs et des Doctrines du Rationalisme en France ("Of the Moral Customs and Doctrines of Rationalism in France", 1839) was a tract within the cultural stream of the Counter-Enlightenment
"Counter-Enlightenment" is a term used to refer to a movement that arose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries in opposition to the 18th century Enlightenment...
. La Mère de Dieu ("The Mother of God", 1844) followed and, after leaving the seminary, two radical tracts, L'Evangile du Peuple ("The Gospel of the People," 1840), and Le Testament de la Liberté ("The Testament of Liberty"), published in the year of revolutions, 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...
, led to two brief prison sentences.
In 1853, Lévi visited England, where he met the novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....
ist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was interested in Rosicrucian
Rosicrucianism is a philosophical secret society, said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology "built on esoteric truths of the ancient past", which, "concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe...
ism as a literary theme and was the president of a minor Rosicrucian order. Levi's first treatise on magic appeared in 1854 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie
Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie is the title of Eliphas Levi's first published treatise on ritual magic, which appeared in 1855.Levi's Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual...
, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite
Arthur Edward Waite was a scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and was the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. As his biographer, R.A...
as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. Its famous opening lines present the single essential theme of Occultism and gives some of the flavor of its atmosphere:
- Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the darkness and strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of old temples and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx
A sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head or a cat head.The sphinx, in Greek tradition, has the haunches of a lion, the wings of a great bird, and the face of a woman. She is mythicised as treacherous and merciless...
, in the monstrous or marvelous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the cryptic emblems of our old books on alchemy, in the ceremonies practised at reception by all secret societies, there are found indications of a doctrine which is everywhere the same and everywhere carefully concealed. (Introduction)
In 1861, he published a sequel, La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries). Further magical works by Lévi include Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862, and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l'Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled); this, however, was only published posthumously in 1898.
Lévi's version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. That Spiritualism was popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1850s contributed to this success. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the inititate of some ancient or fictitious secret society
A secret society is a club or organization whose activities and inner functioning are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, which hide their...
. He incorporated the Tarot
The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...
cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia
In modern usage, the word paraphernalia most commonly refers to apparatus, equipment, or furnishing used in or necessary for a particular activity as in, "Beth is such an avid sports fan that her walls are covered with baseball paraphernalia"....
of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced theurgy and spiritual development...
and later on the ex-Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...
. He was also the first to declare that a pentagram
A pentagram is the shape of a five-pointed star drawn with five straight strokes...
or five-pointed star with one point down and two points up represents evil, while a pentagram with one point up and two points down represents good. It was largely through the occultists inspired by him that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic.
Definition of Magic
Levi's works are filled with various definitions for "Magic" and the "Magician":
- "To practice magic is to be a quack; to know magic is to be a sage."-from The Threshold of Magical Science
- "Magic is the divinity of man achieved in union with faith..."-TMS
- "He looks on the wicked as invalids whom one must pity and cure; the world, with its errors and vices, is to him God's hospital, and he wishes to serve in it."-KoM
- "They are without fears and without desires, dominated by no falsehood, sharing no error, loving without illusion, suffering without impatience, reposing in the quietude of eternal thought..... a Magus cannot be ignorant, for magic implies superiority, mastership, majority, and majority signifies emancipation by knowledge. The Magus welcomes pleasure, accepts wealth, deserves honour, but is never the slave of one of them; he knows how to be poor, to abstain, and to suffer; he endures oblivion willingly because he is lord of his own happiness, and expects or fears nothing from the caprice of fortune. He can love without being beloved; he can create imperishable treasures, and exalt himself above the level of honours or the prizes of the lottery. He possesses that which he seeks, namely, profound peace. He regrets nothing which must end, but remembers with satisfaction that he has met with good in all. His hope is a certitude, for he knows that good is eternal and evil transitory. He enjoys solitude, but does not fly the society of man; he is a child with children, joyous with the young, staid with the old, patient with the foolish, happy with the wise. He smiles with all who smile, and mourns with all who weep; applauding strength, he is yet indulgent to weakness; offending no one, he has himself no need to pardon, for he never thinks himself offended; he pities those who misconceive him, and seeks an opportunity to serve them; by the force of kindness only does he avenge himself on the ungrateful..."-TMS
- "Judge not; speak hardly at all; love and act."-KoM
Theory of magic
Levi identified three fundamental principles of magic:
- That the material universe is only a small part of total reality, which includes many other planes and modes of consciousness. Full knowledge and full power in the universe are only attainable through awareness of these other aspects of reality. One of the most important of these levels or aspects of reality is the "astral light", a cosmic fluid which may be molded by will into physical forms.
- "One can only define the unknown by its supposed and supposable relations with the known."-from The Key of the Mysteries
- "The divine ideal of the ancient world made the civilization which came to an end, and one must not despair of seeing the god of our barbarous fathers become the devil of our more enlightened children."-KoM
- That human willpower
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...
is a real force, capable of achieving absolutely anything, from the mundane to the miraculous.
- AXIOM 1:"Nothing can resist the will of man when he knows what is true and wills what is good."
- AXIOM 9:"The will of a just man is the Will of God Himself and the Law of Nature."
- AXIOM 20:"A chain of iron is less difficult to break than a chain of flowers."
- AXIOM 21:"Succeed in not fearing the lion, and the lion will fear YOU. Say to suffering, 'I will that you shall become a pleasure,' and it will prove to be such-- and even more than a pleasure, it will be a blessing."
- That the human being is a microcosm
Macrocosm and microcosm is an ancient Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale all the way down to the smallest scale...
, a miniature of the macrocosmic universe, and the two are fundamentally linked. Causes set in motion on one level may equally have effects on another.
- "Man is the God of the world, and God is the man of Heaven."-KoM
- Fire worship
Worship or deification of fire is known from various religions. Fire has been an important part of human culture since the Lower Paleolithic...
- Hermetic Qabalah
Hermetic Qabalah is a Western esoteric and mystical tradition...
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...
Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...