Éliphas Lévi

The Great Secret

p. 159

(This chapter's footnotes were missing in the original.)

NOT to succumb to the unchangeable forces of nature, but to direct them; not to allow ourselves to be enslaved by them, but to make use of them to the benefit of immortal liberty; this is the great Secret of Magic.

Nature is intelligent, but she is not free. The Heavenly bodies have instinctive souls like animals, and impregnate each other; the planets are the seraglio of the sun, and the suns are the docile flock of God.

The earth has a soul which obeys the sun, under the decrees of Fate, and obeys man, instinctively.

But, for man to command the soul of the earth demands great knowledge and great wisdom, or great exaltation.159:1

Folly has its prodigies, and these more abundantly than wisdom, because wisdom does not seek prodigies, but tends naturally towards preventing their occurrence. It is said that the Devil performs miracles, and there is hardly any one but him who does perform them, in the sense which the ignorant masses attribute to the word. Everything that tends to estrange man from Science and Reason is assuredly the work of an evil Principle.

The sun has intelligence, but the earth is mindless;160:1 without the Sun and the labour of man she would produce nothing. The sun is her impregnator and man her accoucheur, and reluctantly and with a bad grace does she yield to the caresses of her spouse and the attendance of her physician. Animals, ill-organised ferocious beasts, noxious insects, parasitical and poisonous plants, abortions, monsters and plagues, are the fruits of her clumsiness. She resists as much as she can, and her resistance is not a crime; she is but the creature of Law, and serves as a counterpoise to the activity of the sun. According to the hieratic tradition, man, the only son of God, ought to command the earth, but man, having infringed the law of God, has ceased to be free, and slaves are equals before slavery. The soul of the earth160:2 is hostile to man, because she feels that he has no longer the right to command her; she resists him and deceives him; it is she who produces dreams, nightmares, visions and hallucinations, favoured in this by fanaticism, drunkenness, debauchery and all nervous disorders; madmen, hysterical women, cataleptics and somnambulists are all under her direct influence. They call her also the astral light, and it is she who produces all the phantasmagoria of spiritualism.

We admit that the name astral light does not perfectly apply to the soul of the earth. This instinctive power of our planet manifests itself by negative electricity and magnetism; positive electricity, heat and light come from the influence of the sun.

The soul of the earth radiates out specially during the night. The light restrains and repels its effluvia. It is at midnight, especially in the middle of the long nights of winter, that phantoms love to appear. 161:1

A man is not a saint because he has visions, but one may have visions and yet be a saint, and even amongst the saints visions always involve something ridiculous or hideous. St. Teresa was tormented by blood, and believed she saw living walls, which were choking, and a Cherub armed with an arrow to lance them. Marie Alacoque saw Jesus Christ open his chest and exhibit his heart palpitating and bleeding. Martin de Gallardon saw an angel dressed as a footman; the children of Sallette adorned the Virgin with a huge peasant's bonnet, with a yellow apron, and with roses stuck on to her feet. Bernadette Soubirons sees our Lady of Lourdes, dressed like a girl, about to take the sacrament, with a little blue apron and yellow roses planted by the stalks in her naked feet. Berbignier saw Jesus Christ in the midst of several flat candlestick sockets. This vision of candle-stick sockets reappears at Pontmain, where four candles are seen fixed to the wall of the heavens and the good Virgin in the middle of them. Ravaillac saw the sacred wafers fluttering around his head and heard a voice which told him to kill Henry the IV.162:1 The instinctive soul of the Earth eagerly demands blood, and favours the exaltations which lead to its shedding. Spectres, like crows, seem to scent from afar off massacres and battles. The death of Cæsar, the civil war which resulted from it and the bloody proscriptions of the Triumvirate were announced by prodigies, of which Virgil speaks. A little before the war of extermination which the Romans waged against the Jews, the Temple was crowded by visions and marvels. The morbid miracles of the convulsionaries, preceded by a short time only the hecatombs of the Revolution, followed by the great wars of the Empire: nowadays the spirits turn jugglers and the dead haunt our salons and become familiar with ladies . . . we have just passed through the war with Germany and the Commune, what have we still to expect?

Man, the child of Earth, remains in magnetic communication with the Earth. He is himself a special magnet, which can indefinitely augment its powers by the combination of imaginations and wills. Then inert objects are magnetised, and, under the influence of the physical soul of the Earth, attracted and ill-directed by man, may displace themselves, be lifted up, and cause cracking noises or raps to be heard; at times even a kind of aerial coagulation roughly models out some fugitive form: people believe they see lights or hands; dreams take to themselves bodies, and nature seems to become delirious: new pythonesses scribble at hazard new oracles, as little serious as those of the ancients:163:1 the same causes produce always the same effects.

Will man ever succeed in taming entirely this whirling and devouring animal that we call the Earth? No, so long as he cannot discover a fulcrum for the lever of Archimedes, and so long as the steed is always sure of throwing its rider. In vain man torments the Earth; the Earth will always end by swallowing him up. Hence it is that the grand dream of Prometheus, that is to say of human genius, has always been the secret of Hermes, that is to say the discovery of a panacea for disease, old age and death,164:1

The desire for immortality, which has always exercised the human soul, is a protest against our subjection to the voracity of the Earth, but Religion has placed immortality in death, and only flatters herself that she will succeed in releasing from the slavery of Earth that portion of ourselves that she wants to raise to Heaven.

But in the language of symbolism, Heaven is spirit and Earth is matter; Heaven is light and Earth is shadow; Heaven is the good, Earth, the evil; Heaven is paradise, and Earth, hell. The Theologians moreover who believe in a local Hell can find no place for it save in the middle of the Earth, which seems to affirm that evil is materiality.

The Earth is lazy, because she is heavy and material, and, as laziness produces starvation, the earth engenders imperfect species reduced to devouring each other. She loves to produce beings who kill each other, because she fattens on the corpses of her children. Warfare is the inevitable condition of existence on the earth and the raison d’être always definitely pertains to the strongest. Might does not take precedence of Right; it constitutes it. What Darwin calls natural selection is the triumph of might.

Why are there abortions in nature? Why so many imperfect designs if the Creative Power is omnipotent? Because all Force has a Resistance as a Fulcrum, because inertia battles against movement, because shadow must equilibrise light. All is foreseen by the universal sovereign intelligence, and the Providence of God is not a direct and personal intervention.165:1 If God does not create animals, he tells the earth to produce them. God has impregnated nature and nature has become a mother, producing unaided; but she husbands her efforts and simplifies her great works; she produces life, and life in its turn works on differentiating forms according to the circumscribing conditions. One effort begets other efforts, one form begets other forms, and progress is only possible through the law of transformation.

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These mysteries of nature demonstrate and explain those of Religion which try to the utmost the Human understanding; Divine selection, that is to say, final salvation, coupled with the probable reprobation of the majority; the narrow gate, regeneration or moral transformation, the resurrection or future transformation of the man that now is into a more perfect being. So what has been looked on as calculated to shatter Faith corroborates it, that which one fancied must overthrow Religion reestablishes it. The asserted paradoxes of Darwin explain the oracles of Jesus Christ, and we believe with greater assurance, because we know better what we ought to believe. These truths will sooner or later accomplish the conquest of opinion, and opinion when founded on Truth always carries authority along with it. They begin with condemning Galileo; later they are e’en forced to admit what he asserted, and the Church is none the less infallible, because authority is necessary, and when she transmits her authority to the Pope, the Pope becomes infallible by an infallibility, authoritative, but not miraculous; for an authority may be delegated, a miracle cannot be delegated.

The yearning for Religion is the primary want of the Human soul: it exists side by side with Love, and in Love. "There exist," says Mr. Tyndall,166:1 one of the foremost scientific men of England, "there exist other things woven into the tissue of man, such as the sentiments of veneration, respect, admiration, and not only sexual love, to which we have just referred, but the love of the Beautiful in nature, physical and moral, of poetry and art; there is also that profound sentiment that from the first dawn of History and probably for ages anterior to all History, has incorporated itself in the Religions of the world; you may laugh at these Religions, but in any case you only laugh at certain accidents of form, and you will not touch the immovable basis of the religious sentiment in the emotional nature of man. The problem of problems at this present hour is to give to this sentiment a reasonable satisfaction."

The solution of this great problem we believe that we have sufficiently plainly indicated, to enable writers better accredited than ourselves to discover it and give it with greater success to the legitimate aspirations of the world. The spirit of intelligence will come as Christ has promised us, and this will teach us all the Truth.

The doctrines of the highest science, called magic by the ancients, being no longer recognised in our days by official science, can only be presented to it under the name of Paradoxes, a word which signifies things above reason.

(number for page 167 is missing, so 167 probably contains footnotes)

Paracelsus, whose name signifies an elevation of thought in some way paradoxical, designated these

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the Archidoxes, that is to say, things ultra-reasonable or more than reasonable.168:1

God is the great Archidox of the universe. Religion is Archidoxal when it appears Paradoxical. Liberty is the Paradox or the Archidox of the human divine.

Absolute reason, absolute knowledge, absolute love, are Archidoxes of the human genius; imagination is Archidoxal in the creation and realisation of its paradoxes.

The Will rushes on to the Archidox and does not halt before Paradox.

Absolute Reason is, like the Divinity, the supreme Archidox of the understanding; the absolute for the mind is the unconditioned reason; the absolute for the heart is infinite perfection; moreover, the beautiful being the refulgence of the true, infinite beauty can only exist in the ideal personification of Truth and Love. This personification, realised in the man, is Christianity, realised in society as a whole it will be Catholicity.

He who said, "I believe because it is absurd," gave us in a paradoxical shape the formula of the Archidox, and, in fact alike beneath and above reason only absurdity is to be found; but the absurdity which lies below is nonsense and folly, while that which floats above is enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Below the reason of the mass is materialism, above the reason of the scientific is God. Credo quia absurdum!

Let us now complete our Magic Paradoxes by one last one that we will call the Gospel of Science.

Gospel of Science! what an absurdity! As if Science could have a Gospel, a Bible, a Koran, a Zend-Avesta or Vedas. All these sacred books pertain exclusively to religion and the Priests of the several forms of worship, and Science only concerns herself with them, to ascertain their antiquity, authenticity and influence on the History of nations.

There is no true Gospel but that of Jesus Christ, but it is true that there do exist Apocryphal Gospels.

To write in the present day an Apocryphal Gospel would be an anachronism; to seek to give any other dogmatic Gospel but that of Jesus Christ would be a folly and an impiety.

We employ, therefore, the word Gospel as a paradoxical expression, in accordance with the title of this work which is Magical Paradoxes.

The word Gospel signifies happy news, and it would be indeed happy news for the world to learn that science and religion had been definitively harmonised.

But everything comes in its due season, and the world is not saved because an eccentric book has been written.

Occult sciences are necessarily eccentric, for so soon as they cease to be eccentric, they cease to be occult.

A seed is placed within the earth; no one sees it but he who sows it, and when the earth has closed upon it, no one again sees it. Men pass close to where it is hidden, they even walk above it and for long it ferments and germinates in silence. Then a tiny shoot pierces the earth, the shoot divides into two leaves, and between these two leaves a bud appears. Thus it remains for long without any one noticing it. One day it is found that the shoot has become a sapling, then the sapling grows larger and becomes, slowly, a tree.

Then oft-times he who sowed it is himself enveloped in the earth.

He will never gather his fruits from his tree, nor sit beneath its shade.

His body fattens the earth and may cause other trees to germinate; his thought grows in the heavens and will make other thoughts blossom. For nothing dies; all is transformed; that which no longer is, shall be again, but that which was small shall be great, and that which was ill shall be better.170:1

This is our faith and hope--AMEN, and so be it!

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