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Eliphas Levi
Born Alphonse Louis Constant
8 February 1810(1810-02-08)
France
Died 31 May 1875 (aged 65)

Eliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, (February 8, 1810 - May 31, 1875) was a French occult author and purported magician.[1]

"Eliphas Lévi," the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names "Alphonse Louis" into Hebrew although he was not Jewish.

His second wife was French sculptress Marie-Noémi Cadiot.

Contents

Biography

Lévi was the son of a shoemaker in Paris; he attended a seminary and began to study to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. 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. 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, led to two brief prison sentences.

In 1853, Lévi visited England, where he met the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was interested in Rosicrucianism as a literary theme and was the president of a minor Rosicrucian order.[2] Levi's first treatise on magic appeared in 1854 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite 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, 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. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later on the ex-Golden Dawn member Aleister Crowley. He was also the first to declare that a pentagram or five-pointed star with one point down and two points up represents "bad", while a pentagram with one point up and two points down is "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":

Magic

  • "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

Magician

  • "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:[3]

  1. 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
  2. That human willpower 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."
  3. That the human being is a microcosm, 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
Eliphas Levi's Tetragrammaton pentagram, which he considered to be a symbol of the microcosm, or human being.

Bibliography

  • Des Moeurs et des Doctrines du Rationalisme en France (Of the Moral Customs and Doctrines of Rationalism in France), 1839
  • La Mère de Dieu (The Mother of God), 1844
  • L'Evangile du Peuple (The Gospel of the People) 1840
  • Le Testament de la Liberté (The Testament of Liberty), 1848
  • Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, (Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual), 1855
  • La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries), 1861
  • Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862
  • La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865
  • Le Grand Arcane, ou l'Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled), 1868
  • Magical Rituals of the Sanctum Regnum, 1970

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Christopher McIntosh, Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival, 1972.
  2. ^ C. Nelson Stewart, Bulwer Lytton as Occultist 1996:36 notes that the one surviving letter from Lévi to Lytton "would appear to be addressed to a stranger or to a very distant acquaintance" (A.E. Waite).
  3. ^ Ellwood, Robert S. (1993). Islands of the Dawn. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1487-8. 

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Eliphas Lévi

Eliphas Lévi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, (February 8, 1810 - May 31, 1875) was a French occult author and magician. "Eliphas Lévi," the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names "Alphonse Louis" into Hebrew.

Sourced

The Great Secret: or Occultism Unveiled

(Originally written in 1868. Published in French in 1898. Published in English in 1975.)

ISBN 0-87728-938-7

  • 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
  • We want to be clearly understood on this point. We are not trying to say that signs and rites are a big piece of humbug. They would be such if people did not need them; but we have to recognize that everyone has not the same degree of intelligence. Children have always had fairy stories told to them, and these stories will continue to be told as long as there are nurses and mothers. Children have faith and this is what saves them. Imagine a child of seven saying: 'I do not want to accept anything I cannot understand.' What could one teach such a monster? Accept what your teachers tell you to begin with, my fine fellow, then study it and, if you are not an idiot, you will understand it by-and-by.
    • Book Two: The Royal Mystery or the Art of Subduing the Powers, Chapter XI: The Arcana of Solomon's Ring
  • Progress is a possibility for the animal: it can be broken in, tamed and trained; but it is not a possibility for the fool, because the fool thinks he has nothing to learn. It is his place to dictate to others and put them right, and so it is impossible to reason with him. He will laugh you to scorn in saying that what he does not understand is not a meaningful proposition. 'Why don't I understand it, then?', he asks you, with marvellous impudence. To tell him it is because he is a fool would only be taken as an insult, so there is nothing you can say in reply. Everybody else sees it quite clearly, but he will never realize it.

    Here then, at the outset, is a potent secret which is inaccessible to the majority of people; a secret which they will never guess and which it would be useless to tell them: the secret of their own stupidity.
    • Book Two: The Royal Mystery or the Art of Subduing the Powers, Chapter XII: The Terrible Secret
  • '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

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