Paradoxes of the Highest Science
by Éliphas Lévi
The Will Accomplishes Everything, Which
It Does Not Desire
PRINCE SAKYAMUNI, who has been called Buddha, said that all the torments of the Human Soul had their origin in either fear or desire; and he concluded by two sentences which we may thus render--
To will without fear and without desire is the secret of the Omnipotent will.
Desire then nothing, not even justice;
wait until soon or late Heaven accomplish it.
Nirvana is not annihilation;
it is, in the Order of Nature, the great appeasement.
God fears nothing; he knows that evil cannot triumph, and he desires nothing; he knows that the good will accomplish itself, but he wills that truth should be, because it is true, and that justice should be done, because it is just.
Magic ought to will whatever the Mage wants.
He wants the beauty of nature, which he enjoys in its fullness, because he never abuses it. He wants the springs to come flower laden, the roses to bloom in their beauty, the children to be happy and the women beloved.89:1
He wants men mutually to assist each other, to encourage the young and help the old.
He wants the eternal good to triumph over the transitory evil, and he takes part patiently and peaceably in the work of Society and Nature.
He wants order, he wants reason, he wants goodness, he wants love, and for that which he wants he works with all his strength, for thus he wins immortality and happiness.
Desiring nothing, he is rich; fearing nothing he is free; wanting only what he ought to want, he is happy.
A Poet has said of God:--
For Him, to will is to create; to exist, is to produce.
We may say as much of the Mage--Wishing for the good is to do good, and no existence is barren.
Job, stretched upon his dunghill, accomplished a sublime work. He gave Patience to the world.
All suffering is a giving birth; poverty brings riches, sickness health, captivity deliverance, punishment expiation and pardon; tears are the seed of joy. Death nourishes life. For him who knows and loves, all is hope and happiness.
Fortune, honour, and pleasures, these are what the majority of men crave, and they never dream that pleasures are the ruin alike of fortune and of honour; that riches produce satiety and a disgust for pleasures, and that honours are too often purchased by baseness.
What deceptions too attend these! The miser treasures up misery, the voluptuary depraves his senses and kills his heart, and the ambitious, thinking to scale the Capitol, find only the Tarpeian rock; the miser hungers and thirsts like Tantalus, the voluptuary turns on the wheel of Ixion, the ambitious roll the rock of Sisyphus. Their life is Hell, their end Despair.
The Mage, or, if you prefer it the Sage, welcomes pleasure, accepts riches, merits honours, but he is never the slave of any of them. He knows how to be poor, to stint himself and suffer; he endures willingly forgetfulness, because his happiness, which is his own, expects nothing and dreads nothing from the caprices of Fortune.
He can love without being beloved; he can create imperishable treasures and raise himself above the level of honours, the gift of Chance.90:1 What he wants he possesses, for he possesses profound peace. He regrets nothing of that which must come to an end, but he remembers with joy all that has been good for him. His hope is already a certainty; he knows that Good is eternal, and that Evil is transitory.91:1 He can enjoy solitude but he does not fear the society of man; he is a child with children, joyous with the young, staid with the aged, patient with fools, happy with the wise.
He smiles with all who smile, he mourns with all who weep. He takes his part in all festivities, sympathises in all mournings, applauds all strength of mind, is indulgent to all weaknesses; never offending any one, he has never to pardon, for he never thinks himself offended; he pities those who misconceive him, and awaits the opportunity of doing them good. It is by the force of kindness that he loves to revenge himself on the ungrateful. Ready, himself, to give everything, he receives with pleasure and gratitude all that may be given him. He leans with affection on all arms stretched towards him in times of difficulty, and does not mistake for virtue the fretful pride of Rousseau. He thinks that it is doing a service to others to give them an opportunity of doing good, and he never meets with a refusal either an offer or a demand.
Think you that a man of such a character is not greater than a king, richer than a millionaire, more happy than a Faublas or a Sardanapalus? Happy he who shall understand this greatness, appreciate these riches, and taste this joy and these pleasures! He will want nothing else, and all he wants he will have.
Perfection is equilibrium, and excesses of privation are as injurious as the excesses of enjoyment. Macerations have their unhealthy epicurism, and the Fakirs love to wither away in the ecstasy of their pride. The penitent executioners of their own bodies and of their souls feel the cruelty, of the God, whom they think to avenge, triumphing in them. The burners of men are those who submit to cruel self-discipline. Pope Pius V was an ascetic, and the terrible St. Dominic was a penitent, pitilessly rigorous to himself. The fanatic capable of killing himself for God is capable of killing others; the orgies of austerity harden the heart as certainly as the orgies of pleasure.
Arrived at perfect equilibrium, the man may walk or run without fear of falling. One must be some one to deserve to exist, but one is some one to do something; we exist only to act; we think to speak. Reason also is the Word, but the Word is not only speech, it is life and action. We are strong, to labour; we are learned, to teach; we are physicians, to heal the sick.
We do not light a lamp to hide it under a bushel, as Christ said. The light should be placed on a candlestick; each one owes himself to all, as all owe themselves to each. We must not hide away the talent of gold; we must carry it to the Bank. To live is to love, and to love is to do good. We should desire the progress of humanity, the prosperity of our country, the honour of our family, the welfare of all the world. He who interests himself in no one is a dead man who should be forgotten.
"If any man will come after me," said Christ, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." To renounce oneself is to come out of egoism in order to enter into charity. The true life of man is not in himself but in others. To carry one's cross is to bear courageously the pains and troubles of life.
All Sages have had their crosses. Jesus before be ascended Calvary had the ingratitude of the Jews and the folly of his disciples; Socrates had Xanthippe, Plato had Diogenes; philosophy has to be learned in the Book of job. Happy they who weep, said the Master, but more happy, say we, those who know bow to suffer without weeping. Fénélon, in his Dialogues of the Dead, finds Heraclitus more human than Democritus. Rabelais does not agree with him; animals weep, but man alone is capable of laughing; laughter is therefore more human than tears. Laughter is the consolation of man, and Homer made it the privilege of the Gods. The Epitaph on the Scandinavian Hero was, "He laughed and died."
It is true that there is the good laughter and the bad laughter, but the good is the true, the other is only the gobble of the turkey or the grin of the ape. Good men and clever men know how to laugh, but the wicked and fools can only snigger.94:1 Frank laughter is a fruit of that joy which a good conscience gives.
The tree may be judged by its fruits, says the Gospel; we do not gather grapes from brambles. Determine, to begin with, to be really good, and all that you do will be good. The Good, the Beautiful, the True--Virtue, Honesty, Justice--are things inseparable, out of which grows true happiness; for the result of all is Peace, which is the tranquillity of the Eternal Order.
For the will, to be powerful, must be persevering and calm. God does not waver, says the Bible, and we can never advance by continually halting and retracing our steps. When we have sown the good seed, we must move the earth no more, but we must yet not cease to water what we have planted. Then the germ will be produced, and the plant will sprout of itself. When we have placed the leaven in the dough, we must leave it to work.
The smallest effort constantly repeated ends by conquering all obstacles. We ought to persevere with an invincible patience. The most powerful men are those that do not excite themselves, and who only act to the purpose, with moderation and judgment.
It is the economy of labour which creates and augments wealth. Economy, however, is not to be confounded with avarice. The wealth of the economist is living, that of the miser is dead. The economist husbands, the miser buries; the economist spends and distributes, the miser holds and sequesters; the wealth of the economist is useful to all, that of the miser is useless to others and even to himself. The one uses, the other abuses; the one gathers, the other monopolises; the possession of the one is property, of the other is pillage and the receipt of stolen property.
Man assuredly has no right to live only for himself his rule of conduct cannot be his own caprice. A child of nature, be must respect its laws; a member of society, he must accept its duties. His will may make him sovereign, but it is solely on condition of his being a constitutional sovereign; all disorderly wills are shipwrecked and go to pieces. Every caprice is a foolish expenditure of life, and a step towards death.
To will effectively, we must will correctly and justly. To will correctly, we must judge rationally of things and not allow ourselves to be carried away by prejudice or passion.
The opinion of the common herd is not the rule of conduct of the sage. He does not overtly attack it, but he does not conform to it.
There is, moreover, at the root of all popular opinions some truth misunderstood. To have power and enjoyment fascinates and attracts all men, and truly to have power and enjoy oneself constitutes the fullness of human life. In what then do the fools differ from the sages? In that the former take the means for the end, and it results that the greatest good becomes for them the greatest evil.
To have everything except intelligence and reason--what luxury of misery! To have all power to do evil--what a horrible doom! To enjoy the abuse--what suicide! Is a coward a warrior because he has grand weapons? Is a pig a man because it eats truffles off a golden plate? Can one be proud of commanding others when one is not master of one's self?
Alexander the Great conquered the Indians and the Persians and was unable to conquer his own intemperance. Master of the World, he yields to a fit of fury and slays his friend Clytus. It seemed as he were about to rend asunder a universe too narrow to contain him, and he bursts with wine in a frantic revel! He dies of delirium tremens. This man, now God, now brute, had made nations tremble before his ambitious madness. He dies young, like all exaggerated hopes, and the abortion of this gigantesque existence is a fraud upon glory. What nothingness after so much glory! What idle renown evaporates around that little corpse! and was it not of him that Jesus thought when he said, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
The frog in the fable swells itself out trying to become monstrous, and ends by bursting, and even if a man, void of Reason, did succeed in aggrandising himself beyond measure, what could he become save a gigantic unreason, an enormous folly, a more intense shadow to be pierced with all the brighter flash by the smallest spark of Reason?
For, whether on the thrones of science or power, or in the most humble condition, Reason is ever the same; she is the light of God! Reason is like the Host consecrated by Catholic belief, the Host of which the most imperceptible fragments contain or rather express God in his fullness. Where Reason is, there is divinity. What Reason wills, God wills. The reasonable being participates in the divine Royalty. He wills because Reason wills, and his will is invincible. He can say like Christ, I am the principle that speaks. He may have his opponents, his persecutors, his oppressors, but he has no masters on earth and his equals are in Heaven.
The sun which shines upon an insect is not less glorious than the sun which renders the moon resplendent, and a beggar in the right is superior to a prince who is in the wrong.
Diogenes with good reason preferred one ray of the sun to the shadow of Alexander, and the cynic proved himself the equal of the conqueror whose power he limited by his own right not to be troubled. To desire nothing, to fear nothing, and to will patiently what is just, this is to be greater and stronger than all the masters of the earth.
Footnotes (page number:note number)
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89:1 I beg to demur to this latter. "Le Mage" wants nothing of the kind--unless, indeed, he be a Frenchman.--E. O.
90:1 In the original "aleatoires," a word I never met with in French and can find in no dictionary, but manifestly derived from "aleatores," pertaining to a gamester--Trans.
91:1 He knows nothing of the kind; what he knows he tells, viz., that Good and Evil are both eternal, because both are fictions of the Human imagination, and Humanity, or God in Nature, is eternal.--E. O.
I venture to submit that this is liable to misconstruction. In the absolute, in the highest transcendental sense, Good and Evil may be both fictions, but relatively to, and quoad conditioned existences of all degrees, Good and Evil are real.--Trans.
94:1 This is a good old Scandinavian word, and more nearly translates the original "ricanner" that either "giggle" or "sneer," the usual translations.--Trans.