Paradoxes of the Highest Science
by Éliphas Lévi
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, 2:1 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. 3:1 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? 4:1 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. 7:1 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. 8:1 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. 9:1 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 dipus to misfortune and self-imposed blindness. An intelligent Catholic ought not to leave the church, he ought to remain in it 9:2 ; 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. 9:3
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. 9:4
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. Prudhomme 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 een 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?
Shall we speak now of Jesus Christ? But here we should bow before him whom half the world adores. What great hierophant, what ancient oracle could ever have foreseen this God? What astrologer, or what Diviner could have conceived the idea of saying to the Emperor Tiberius: "At this moment a Jew of Galilee, proscribed by his own people, denied by his friends, and condemned by one of your Prefects, is dying in agony. After his death he will dethrone the Cæsars, and those who will claim to continue his inconceivable dynasty will reign in Rome in your place. All the Gods of the Empire and of the entire world will fall before his image; the instrument of his punishment will become the symbol of Salvation." What madness is Christianity if it be not superhuman! What an awful faith, that in Jesus Christ, if he be not God! 13:1 Can you conceive a mental disease, contagious enough to infect with delirium through a long series of centuries almost the whole of humanity? What a deluge of blood has that abolisher of bloody sacrifices caused to flow! What implacable hatreds, what vengeance, what wars, what tortures, what massacres, has not this promulgator of pardon excited? But Jesus was more than a man; he was an idea, nay more than an idea, a principle; I am a principle that speaks, said he, speaking of himself.
God has made himself man; thus is proclaimed upon earth the worship of humanity. "Emmanuel God is in us," would say as they embraced each other the Brothers of the Rosy Cross, initiated in the mystery of the Man-God. 14:1 For truly the Son of Man is at the same time the only and multiple Son of God. 14:2 You are one with me, said the Master to his disciples, as my Father and I are one; he who hears you hears me, and he who sees me, sees my Father. Triumph and miracle! God is no longer unknown to men, because man knows man. He is no longer invisible when we see our neighbour. He is the benefactor who assists us, He is the poor man whom we assist, He is the sick who suffers, the physician who heals. He is the sufferer who weeps and the friend who consoles. And woman,--how Christianity elevates her! What an assumption is hers; the woman is the mother of God since God has made himself man! A virgin--we can love her with all our aspirations to infinity; a mother--but it is no longer sufficient to love her, we must adore her as we adore Grace and Providence. The law of pardon on her lips, she is peace and mercy, she is nature and life, she is obedience--free, and Liberty--self -submitting. She is all that we should love! Recite in her honour the Litanies of the Virgin-Mother; I salute you, Gate of Heaven, Temple of Ivory, Sanctuary of Gold, Mysterious Rose, Sacred Vase of Devotion, Honourable Vase, Admirable Vase, Pyxis of Love, Cup of Holy Desires, 15:1 Star of the Morning, Arch of the Alliance.
Ob! what cries of love do all those martyrs, self-condemned to eternal widowhood, raise, without comprehending them, to thee! Oh cruel, despairing sigh of all these Tantaluses thirsting for a draught that ever eludes them, and provoked to longings by fruits ever denied to their lips. Sublime dreamers! They renounce woman to gain heaven, as if heaven was something without woman, and as if woman was not the Queen of Heaven! "O trespass of Adam, happy trespass," sings the Church in her liturgy, "happy trespass which has deserved to have God himself as its redeemer! O sin of Adam, sin truly inevitable!" Thus escape in the sacred chants the innermost secrets of the Sanctuary, but those who repeat these mysterious words fail to catch their true sense, and their hearts, burning perhaps beneath the ashes, accuse themselves of a desire, as though it were a shame, and of a regret, as though it were an infidelity!
Religion then is the exaltation of the man and the assumption of the woman. Comprehension of religion is the emancipation of the spirit, and the Bible of the hierophants is the Bible of liberty. To believe without knowing is weakness; to believe, because one knows, is power.
Footnotes (page number:note number)
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2:1 The Western Ideal of Good.--E. O.
3:1 In a Review of Wilson's "Chapters on Evolution" in Knowledge for February 23rd, 1883, the following passage occurs showing how Western science is slowly drifting into the position occupied for thousands of years by the Occultists:--
"Quite early the tendency of the Theory of Evolution was seen to be towards the widest possible generality. It was recognised that man could not possibly be excluded from the Law of Evolution. Those who had believed in his nobler origin from the dust of the earth were pained. They objected to a doctrine according to which man, instead of having been made originally a little lower than the angels, had risen from only a little higher than the beasts of the fields--instead of being made in the likeness of God, must be regarded rather as having imagined God after his own likeness. It is true the new doctrine presented man as having risen--and likely therefore to rise still higher--while the old presented him as having fallen grievously, having, from being next door to an angel, and quite in the likeness of God (though, for a slight temptation, or none, held p. 4 out by an objectionable reptile, he so offended as to merit death--not, before, a part of the plan), become a wretched creature, I deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked'. So that, on the whole, the new teaching was a more cheerful one apart from religious hopes and fears,--which do not belong to our inquiry here."--Trans.
4:1 i.e., in which the bread and wine are not supposed to be really transmuted into Christ's flesh and blood, as is held by the Romish Church.--Trans.
7:1 That is to say when the Seventh Round men appear on the scene, then only shall there be a God for the sons of man.--E. O.
For the sons of men yes; that is to say cognisable and comprehensible by limited and conditioned intellects; but this is a different thing from the assertion that there is no God, though this latter is, no doubt, the view taken by E. O.--Trans.
8:1 Woman taken collectively is of course Mother of God--Humanity, but has Éliphas no other God? No, but he has an enemy--Rome. E. L. was an atheist and a poet. He was also a diplomatist; he seeks to win over and not to frighten away his public--E. O.
It is very questionable whether E. L. was an atheist; indeed it seems to me certain that he was not. His position was not that there was no God, (an assertion involving an assumption of omniscience), but simply that to the narrow and dim cognisance of man and even to that of far higher but still conditioned intelligences, God only manifests himself in Nature and Humanity. To say that the Infinite and Absolute is entirely outside the highest plane to which any limited and conditioned intellect can attain, and that hence we must content ourselves with dealing with the laws and manifestations of the conditioned Universe, which are more or less within our grasp or that of our perfected predecessors, is one thing; to assert that there is no power and intelligence outside the sphere of our possible cognisance, the source of these laws and manifestations, no God in fact, another, and one to which, to my mind, neither Éliphas Lévi, nor any other occultist of his school, would commit himself.--Trans.
9:1 But this is not the case in reality, though to a superficial observer it may often seem so. On the contrary, each and all inevitably pay to the last farthing their own debts (incurred in the current of previous lives) and these only, and pay them either in this or in future lives.--Trans.
9:2 And that is why E. L. left it--for the sake of a Paradox.--E. O.
9:3 A play upon words--Catholicity means with him Universality.--E. O.
"Now the Virgin returns, the golden age returns,
Now a new offspring is sent down from high Heaven,
O Chaste Lucina, favour the boy now being born,
The serpent will die."--Virgil's 4th Eclogue.
Virgil died September 22nd, 19 B.C. Was he a Prophet?--E. O.
14:1 "Man is God and Son of God, and there is no other God but man." (The secret pledge of the Rosicrucians).--E. O.
14:2 "Humanity--Son of Eternity."--E. O.
15:1 Compare these expressions taken from the litanies of the R. C. Church with like sexual flatteries addressed to Durga's idol (the Yoni) by Hindu devotees and the litanies of the Vallabacharyas to the God of Love.--E. O.