Paradoxes of the Highest Science - Eliphas Levi - ebook
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MANY paths lead to the mountain-top, and many and diverse are the rifts in the Veil, through which glimpses may be obtained of the secret things of the Universe. The Abbé Louis Constant, better known by his nom de plume of ÉLIPHAS LÉVI, was doubtless a seer; but, though his studies were by no means confined to this, he saw only through the medium of the kabala, the perfect sense of which is, now-a-days, hidden from all mere kabalists, and his visions were consequently always imperfect and often much distorted and confused. Moreover, he was for a considerable portion of his career a Roman Catholic priest, and as such had to keep terms, to a certain extent, with his church, and even later, when he was unfrocked, he hesitated to shock the prejudices of the public, and never succeeded in even wholly freeing himself from the bias of his early clerical training. Consequently he not only erred at times in good faith, not only constantly wrote ambiguously to avoid a direct collision with his ecclesiastical chiefs or current creeds, but he not unfrequently put forward Dogmas, which, taken in their obvious straightforward meanings, he certainly did not believe--nay, I may say, certainly knew to be false.

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Eliphas Levi

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Table of contents

Preface To The 1922 Second Edition

Foreword To The 1922 Second Edition

Second Preface

Paradox 1. Religion Is Magic Sanctioned By Authority

Paradox 2. Liberty Is Obedience To The Law

Paradox 3. Love Is The Realisation Of The Impossible

Paradox 4. Knowledge Is The Ignorance Or Negation Of Evil

Paradox 5. Reason Is God

Paradox 6. The Imagination Realises What It Invents

Paradox 7. The Will Accomplishes Everything, Which It Does Not Desire

SYNTHETIC RECAPITULATION

Magic And Magism

The Great Secret

Notes

Preface To The 1922 Second Edition

MANY paths lead to the mountain-top, and many and diverse are the rifts in the Veil, through which glimpses may be obtained of the secret things of the Universe. The Abbé Louis Constant, better known by his nom de plume of ÉLIPHAS LÉVI, was doubtless a seer; but, though his studies were by no means confined to this, he saw only through the medium of the kabala, the perfect sense of which is, now-a-days, hidden from all mere kabalists, and his visions were consequently always imperfect and often much distorted and confused. Moreover, he was for a considerable portion of his career a Roman Catholic priest, and as such had to keep terms, to a certain extent, with his church, and even later, when he was unfrocked, he hesitated to shock the prejudices of the public, and never succeeded in even wholly freeing himself from the bias of his early clerical training. Consequently he not only erred at times in good faith, not only constantly wrote ambiguously to avoid a direct collision with his ecclesiastical chiefs or current creeds, but he not unfrequently put forward Dogmas, which, taken in their obvious straightforward meanings, he certainly did not believe--nay, I may say, certainly knew to be false. It is quite true that, in many of these latter cases, an undercurrent of irony may be discerned by those who know the truth, and that in all the enlightened can sufficiently read between the lines to avoid misconceptions. But these defects, the ineradicable bias of his early training, the very narrow standpoint from which he regarded occultism, and the limitations to free expression imposed on him by his position and temperament, seriously detract from the value of all Éliphas Lévi's writings. Still, he was an eloquent and learned man, and sufficiently advanced in occultism to render all he wrote on this subject interesting and more or less valuable to earnest students of the Mysteries; and I have, therefore, thought that fellow-searchers for the Hidden Truth would be well pleased to obtain access to some important and hitherto unpublished writings of this great kabalist. Hence this translation, which, although absolutely without pretensions to literary merit, yet does, I hope and believe, everywhere fully and faithfully reproduce the obvious meanings of the author, leaving, in all cases, where this is so in the original, an inner meaning discernible by those who KNOW. If in many places the language appears constrained and awkward, this has arisen from the necessity of preserving intact the exoteric and esoteric meanings, which our author so loved to combine in his epigrammatic sentences. An eminent occultist, E. O., had added a few notes to the MSS. before it reached my hands, and these, which I have reproduced (though some of them will seem scarcely relevant to the uninitiated), merit the most careful attention. I too have here and there ventured a few remarks, which must be taken for what they are worth. I do not always agree with E. O., and, though perfectly aware that my opinion is as nothing when opposed to his, I did not think it honest to reproduce remarks, which I could not concur in, without recording my dissent. For the rest, any reader who, interested in these Paradoxes, yet feels uncertain at their conclusion that he has fully grasped the author's meaning and desires to know more of this, may with advantage study Éliphas Lévi's other works, viz.-- DOGME ET RITUEL DE LA HAUTE MAGIE. HISTOIRE DE LA MAGIE. LA CLEF DES GRANDS MYSTÈRES. LA SCIENCE DES ÉSPRITS. LE SORCIER DE MEUDON. FABLES ET SYMBOLES. Each one of these amongst, it must be admitted, a mass of irrelevant and I had almost said trashy matter, redeemed only by a grace of style necessarily lost in any translation, throws some light upon each one of the others; and no one with any natural capacity for occultism can study these carefully, along with what is now published, without clearly apprehending our author's views. These, however limited and imperfect, were yet, to a great extent and so far as they went, correct, and were moreover, if nothing else, far in advance of most existing and accepted exoteric cosmogonies, theogonies and religions. One word more: Occultism has its Physics and Metaphysics, its practical and theoretical sides. Éliphas Lévi was a theorist and, if we may judge from the nonsense given in great detail in his RITUEL DE LA HAUTE MAGIE, profoundly ignorant of its practice. Of the Physics of Occultism nothing of any great value can be gathered by the uninitiated from his pages, though reproducing, apparently without by any means fully comprehending them, phrases and ideas from the older Hermetic works; secrets, even pertaining to this branch, lie buried, like mutilated torsos, in his writings. But where the Metaphysics of Occultism are concerned his works are often encrusted with real jewels that would shine out far more clearly into the soul of the uninitiated but for his persistent habit of laying on everywhere coats of Roman Catholic and orthodox whitewash, partly in his earlier days to avert the antagonism of the church, partly to avoid shocking the religious prejudices of his readers, and partly I suspect, because to the last some flavour of those prejudices clung even to his own mind. To those then who desire to acquire proficiency in Practical Occultism, who crave long life, gifts and powers, and a knowledge of the hidden things and laws of the universe, a study of Éliphas Lévi's books would be almost time wasted. Let them seek elsewhere for what they want, and if they seek in earnest they will surely find it. But by those who, careless of such things, desire only to grapple with and assimilate the highest and ultimate TRUTHS of Occultism more may perhaps be gleaned from his pages by thoughtful study, than from those of any writer, past or present, whose works are readily accessible to the world. To such seekers I say, study Éliphas Lévi's works as a whole and ponder over them. Doubtless they are encumbered by a mass of what, but for the elegance of the diction, would deserve to be set down as twaddle. Doubtless our Abbé was a true Frenchman, often aiming more at felicity of expression and neatness of antithesis than at the simple truth, and ever ready to jump from the sublimest spiritual truth to some cynical mundane jest by no means always in the best possible taste. Doubtless too he perpetually wastes time (for most modern readers) in slaying over again the already defunct bugbears, bogies and monsters of the Roman Catholic Church. But none the less had he much real occult learning, and this, though in a purposely bewildering, inconsecutive and incoherent form, he put piecemeal on record in his various works. Truly, though wrapped by his eloquence in cloth of gold, not an inviting heap! Yet, despite the mass of shells and sand and ancient fishy odours, the pearls are there for those who truly seek. A hint in one work, a bantering falsehood in one passage, will explain veiled truths in others; to those who strive hard to grasp them his real meanings will become clear; and though the labour be considerable and the results, even when obtained, imperfect and requiring to be supplemented elsewhere, the trouble will not have been wasted; and those who have advanced thus far will assuredly find unexpected help in completing their task. THE TRANSLATOR

Foreword To The 1922 Second Edition

THERE appear, in the early volumes of The Theosophist, several fragments called "Unpublished Writings of Éliphas Lévi." "Éliphas Lévi" was the French Abbé Louis Constant, a priest who left the Roman Catholic Church to devote himself to Kabbalistic Mysticism. One of these "unpublished writings"--which however was not printed in The Theosophist, but separately as a pamphlet, in the series "Theosophical Miscellanies"--was commented upon in footnotes by "E. O.", "Eminent Occultist." Éliphas Lévi's essay, together with E. O.'s footnotes, was then published, and the present publication is a reprint of this "Theosophical Miscellany" printed in Calcutta in 1883. There would be no point in reprinting this old "propaganda literature" of the early days of the Theosophical Society, but for the fact that "Eminent Occultist" is the Master of the Wisdom now well known among Theosophists under the initials "K. H." It is in a footnote of the Master, in 1883, that first appears in Theosophical literature the assertion that Jesus Christ lived a century B. C. Surely nothing could be more beautiful about woman's rôle in life than what He says in the last of His footnotes. Reading these notes of the Master has inspired me and given me an insight into His mind. I have urged their republication, hoping that others may receive from them what I have received. C.J.

Second Preface

The history of western magic started about 4000 years ago. And since then it has been adding something to western magic. Originally, the Latin word magus nominated the followers of the spiritualist-priest class, and later originated to elect ‘clairvoyant, sorcerer’ and in a judgmental sense also ‘magician, trickster’. Thus, the initial meaning of the word ‘magic’ was the wisdoms of the Magi, that is the abilities of attaining supernatural powers and energy, while later it became practical critically to deceitful wizardry. The etymological descriptions specify three significant features in the expansion of the notion ‘magic’: 1) Magic as a discipline of celestial natural forces and in the course of formation 2) Magic as the exercise of such facts in divinations, visions and illusion 3) Fraudulent witchery. The latter belief played a significant part in the Christian demonization process. The growth of the western notion ‘magic’ directed to extensive assumptions in the demonological and astrophysical argument of the Neoplatonists. Their tactic was grounded on the philosophy of a hierarchically ordered outer space, where conferring to Plotinus (C205–C270 AD) a noetic ingredient was shaped as the outcome of eternal and countless radiation built on the ultimate opinion; this in its chance contributed to the rise of psychic constituent, which formed the basis of the factual world. Furthermore, these diverse phases of release came to be measured as convinced forces, which underneath the impact of innocent and evil views during late ancient times were embodied as humans. The hierarchical cosmos of Iamblichus simply demonstrates the legitimacy of this process. In his work, the Neoplatonic cosmology has initiated a channel through the syncretism distinctive of the late antiquity and in the essence of Greco-Oriental dualism. Superior productions are taken closer to inferior ones by various midway creatures. The higher the site of the mediators, the further they bear a resemblance to gods and whizzes; the minor they are, the nearer they stand to the psychic-spiritual part. The aforementioned group of intermediaries has been settled in order of series on the origin of cosmic gravity. Proclus (c410–485 AD) has described the system of magic origin conversed above in better aspect: in the hierarchical shackles of cosmic rudiments the power and nature of a firm star god disturbs everything mediocre, and with growing distance the impact slowly becomes weaker. The Humanists approached the Platonic notions from the outlook of the bequest of late antiquity, and were thus first familiarized to the Neoplatonic form of the doctrine. And since Ficino’s work has been inscribed in the spirit of emanation theory, and the author has been persuaded of the existence of the higher and lower spheres of magic and powers defined in Picatrix, he claims that planets and cosmic movements have much to do with power and magic spirit. Today’s occult marketplace also offers, in addition to books, multifarious paraphernalia for practicing magic: amulets, talismans, pendulums and magic rods. Though added with modern essentials and pseudoscientific advices to give some weight to the fundamentals, they are nothing but the leftovers of the western ethnicities of magic.

Paradox 1. Religion Is Magic Sanctioned By Authority

MAGIC is the divinity of man conquered by science in union with faith; the true Magi are Men-Gods, in virtue of their intimate union with the divine principle. They are without fear and without desires; they are dominated by no falsehood; they share no error; they love without illusion and suffer without impatience, for they leave all to happen as it may, and repose in the quietude of the eternal thought. They lean upon religion, but religion does not weigh on them; religion is the Sphynx which obeys, but never devours them. They know what religion is, and they feel that it is necessary and eternal. For debased souls religion is a yoke imposed, through self-interest, by the poltrooneries of fear and the follies of hope. For exalted souls religion is a force, springing from an intensified reliance in the love of humanity. Religion is the collective poesy of great souls. Her fictions are more true than Truth itself; vaster than Infinity; more lasting than Eternity; in other words, they are essentially paradoxical. They are the dream of the Infinite in the Unknown, of the Possible in the Impossible, of the Definite in the Indefinable, of Progress in the Immutable, of Absolute Being in the Non-existent. They are the ultimate rationale of the Absurdity, which affirms itself, to deny doubt; they are the science of foolishness, the embrace of Folly and Knowledge. They are the cries of the eagle mounting above the clouds, the roar of the lion of the Apocalypse, that takes to itself wings and flies away; the bellowing of the bull beneath the sacrificial knife, and the never ending moan of mankind before the portals of the tomb. For man, God is, and can only be, the ideal of man. In himself, he is the unknown, but in his revelation, at once divine and human, he is paradoxical man, the substantial without substance, the personal without definition, the immutable which transforms itself but has no form, the omnipotent ever struggling with the weakness of man, the serenity which thunders, the mercy which damns, the infinite goodness which tortures, the eternity which perishes; an infinite contradiction; the abyss of the human heart, serving as a world for an insatiable and terrifying idol; the cruelty of Nero, the policy of Tiberius drinking the blood of Jesus Christ, 1 a pope emperor, or an emperor antipope, the king of kings, the pontiff of pontiffs, the executioner of executioners, the physician of physicians, the liberator of the free, the inflexible master of slaves. God is everywhere the ideal of those who ignorantly adore him; ferocious amongst savages, instinct with human passions amidst the Greeks, an Oriental despot for the Jews, jealous and merciless for the Ultramontanes as a celibate priest. One and all create a personage whom they endow in an infinite degree with their own characteristics and their own defects.
2 Every man adores the God whom he has made for himself in his own image, or has allowed authorities, who have more or less an interest in his ignorance and weakness, to impose upon him. To adore in fear and trembling is almost to hate, though the fear disguises the hate; to adore fearlessly is to love. True piety, which is the foundation of religion, is the exaltation of love, for love raised to a high pitch admits no longer the barriers of the possible; the impossible is its dream, and miracle, for it, reality. What would avail a religion that did not give us the infinite? What is Protestantism with its sacrament devoid of reality? 3 Sad as an extinguished taper or a dismantled church! How can the bread consecrated by the word represent Jesus Christ if it be not Jesus himself? What folly if the Christ be not divinity! A fine piece of worship, truly, to chew a mouthful of bread--alas for him who cannot feel the necessity for miracle here. One can love a human being to the death, to the forgetfulness of self, to madness, but can one immortalise him and make him divine, in faith in the making him divine, and immortalising oneself along with him? Can one incorporate him in oneself? Eat him altogether and feel that he lives more than ever, that he lives in us and outside of us, that he absorbs us in him, as we absorb him in us, in bringing us into communion with his vast being, and his eternal love? Alas! we feel that he is neither eternal nor vast! Why is he not God? Why, because God alone is God! and this is how the God comes to us, veiled under the appearance of bread! We see him, we touch him, we taste him, we eat him, and his eternity trembles within our mortal flesh. The blood which palpitates in our heart is his. Our bosom swells, it is he who breathes. Ah! these Protestants with their mouthful of bread and sip of wine, truly a fine Sacrament they have there! Faith, the poet enamoured of the ideal, smiles at a ridiculous reality, but the fanatical believer grows exasperated. Reason says we should pity the Protestants. "No!" says infuriated Faith,---we must punish them! The God which I feel grow wrathful in me condemns them to hell; why should I grudge them to the burning pile?" Hold, miserable assassin! Dost thou then believe that God made himself man, that man might make himself a tiger? Thou believest thyself to have conceived with the infinite love, and 'behold thou art in labour with hate. Thou hast thought to devour Heaven and behold thou vomitest Hell! Thou hast eaten the flesh of Christ not as a Christian but as a cannibal. Sacrilegious communicant, hold thy peace and cleanse thy mouth, for thy lips are dripping with blood. Doubtless religion must not be held responsible for the crimes which the policy of barbarous ages has committed in her name. Many heretics were at the same time the agents of conspiracies and seditions. The massacre of St. Bartholomew was a cruel ruse de guerre, the perfidy of which is perhaps explained by the necessity for rendering abortive a plot not less perfidious. Thus, at any rate, did the Queen Mother and Charles IX endeavour to justify their action. This at least is certain that, at that period, both parties were capable of any, outrage. But what could ever justify the Inquisition? "God made himself man," it may be replied, and these grand words were understood by Pius V in a terrible, and by Vincent de Paul in an adorable, sense. Did not God, according to the Bible, repent himself of having made man? Cruel exaggeration of human iniquity I It is assumed to have been so gigantic as to make God waver in his purpose! Man divinifies himself even in his crimes, and dreams of opposition to the Eternal. The irreconcileable revolt of the damned and thenceforth the cruelly powerless hate of a God, unable any more to pardon. Well, even this is sublime in its horror, and the Catholic dogma is admirable even to its most dreadful depths for those souls which realise its poetry without becoming victims of its seductions and its infatuations. God appears to repent himself of having made man, because man from time to time repents himself of having made a God. Divine fictions succeed each other like the ages. Jupiter dethrones Saturn, and the Jesus Christ of Popes reigns in the place of Jehovah of the Jews. The Jesus of St. Dominic is still none the less the son of the cruel God of Moses, but the ferocious beasts of Daniel and the Apocalypse must inevitably disappear to make room for the dove and the lamb. God will truly have made himself man, when he shall have caused men to become as good as a God ought to be. 4 The genius of man, in developing itself in the course of ages, unrolls the genealogy of the Gods. It is in the genius of man that an eternal Ancient of Days begets a son that must succeed to his father and in which proceeds, from father and son, the spirit of knowledge and intelligence which shall explain the mysteries of both. The Trinity, does not this issue from the very bowels of humanity? Does not man feel it to be eternal in three persons, the father, the mother and the child? In the human trinity, is not the son as ancient as the father? For the father also is a son! Is not the woman the immaculate conception of nature and love? And this her conception, is it not stainless? For the sin of love ends where maternity begins. There is a virginity in the sanctity of the mother, and since God has made himself man, that is to say, since God neither really lives for us, nor personifies himself, nor thinks, nor loves, nor speaks, save only in humanity, the ideal woman, the typical woman, the collective woman, is truly the mother of God. 5 There is redemption, that is to say, solidarity amongst men; the good suffer for the bad, and the just pay the debts of the sinners. 6 Thus, all is true in the dogmas of religion when once we have the key to the enigma. Catholicism is the Sphynx of modern times. Place yourself under its talons, without guessing its riddle, and it devours you; guess its riddle without conquering it, or only half guess it, and you are doomed like Œdipus to misfortune and self-imposed blindness. An intelligent Catholic ought not to leave the church, he ought to remain in it 7 ; wise amidst the ignorant, free amidst slaves, to enlighten the former and liberate the latter, for I once more repeat that there is no true religion outside the pale of Catholicity. 8 The rationale of a religion is to be irrational! Its nature is to be supernatural. God is supersubstantial. Space and the universal substance are the Infinite, God is within it, for he is the knowledge and the power of the infinite. 9 The infinite is the inevitable absurdity which imposes itself on science. God is the paradoxical explanation of the absurdity which imposes itself on faith. Science and faith can and ought mutually to counterbalance each other and produce equilibrium; they can never amalgamate. The eternal Father is Jewish; the good God is Christian; the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Pope, and the Devil are Catholic; but charity, which is Catholic and in a way pre-eminent, will suppress the Devil and convert the idolaters of the Pope. Original sin is Jewish, pardon is Christian, the sacraments, Catholic. Fanaticism is of Jewish birth, good sense is Christian, simplicity and intelligence are Catholic, but pretentious folly is Protestant. Don Juan, Voltaire, the first Napoleon, Venillot, Polichinello, Pierrot and Harlequin are Catholics, but Mons. Prud’homme is Protestant and, what is worse, a Freemason. Philosophy is Atheistic or Christian, poetry is Catholic, and egotistic and mercantile jejuneness are Protestant. This is why France is Voltairean, but still Catholic, whereas the English, the Prussians and M.* * * are Protestants. "Yes, gentlemen of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy," said the Catholic Galileo, "the Earth is fixed, if you desire it; it is the Sun which revolves. I will say more if you demand it, I will say that the earth is flat and the Heavens made of crystal. Would to God that your skulls were of the same material so as to allow a little light to penetrate to your respected brains. You are authority, and science is bound to bow; she can afford to bow when she meets you, for it is she who remains, you who pass away. Your successors will e’en be forced in their turn to bow to and live in peace with her." Rabelais, not less learned and not less a good Catholic than Galileo, wrote the following in the prologue of his fourth book of Gargantua: "If in my life, my writings, my speech, nay even in my thoughts, I detected the faintest glimmer of heresy, with my own hands should the dry wood be collected and the fire kindled to burn myself on the pile." Do you see here Rabelais, the inquisitor, burning himself, Rabelais, accused of heresy? This reminds one of God, causing God to die in order to appease God. It is inexplicable, as a mystery should be, but it is only the more essentially Catholic. Nothing so excites the imagination as mystery, and the excited imagination electrifies and multiplies tenfold the will. The wise are called to govern the world, but it is the mad men who overturn and metamorphose it. This is why madness is considered by Eastern nations as something divine. Indeed to vulgar eyes the man of genius is a mad man. In truth, he has, perhaps, some grains of madness in him, for he almost always disregards common sense to obey the sublime sense. Moses dreams of a Promised Land and drags away into the desert a horde of herdsmen and slaves, who murmur, rebel, kill each other and die of hunger and fatigue during forty years. He will never reach Palestine; he will die, lost in the mountain, but his thought will have swept the heavens, and he will bequeath to the world a God, unique, and an universal code; from the shade of Moses, unburied, will issue the immeasurable glory of Jehovah. He created a people and commenced a book; a people, bravely mean in its tenacity, at once superb and servile; a book, full of shadows and lights, of a grandeur and absurdity alike superhuman; this book and this people will withstand all force, all science, all political combinations, and all the criticisms of the nations and the revolving ages. From this book civilisation will derive its worship, from this people kings will borrow their treasures, and who now will dare to judge the man of the Red Sea and Mount Horeb? What rationalistic philosopher can think that he was wise? But who, capable of appreciating great things. could dare to call him foolish?