The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Two

Chapter III Joint Liability in Evil

In his book on the perpetual motion of souls, the Grand Rabbi Isaac Loriah says that it is necessary to take special care in using the hour preceding sleep. In fact, the soul loses its individual life for a time during sleep to immerse itself in the universal light which, as we have said, appears as two opposite currents. The sleeping entity either yields to the embraces of the serpent of Aesculapius, the vital and regenerating serpent, or lies back in the poisoned coils of the hideous Python. To sleep is to bathe in the light of life or in the phosphorescent glow of death. He who goes to sleep with thoughts of justice steeps himself in the merits of the just, but he who prepares for sleep with hatred or lies filling his mind wallows in the dead sea or soaks up the infection of the wicked.

Night is like winter time which incubates and prepares the seeds. If we have sown tares we shall not harvest wheat. He who settles down to sleep in a spirit of irreverence will not wake up in the presence of the divine blessing. It is said that night brings counsel. Undoubtedly. Good counsel to the just, and baneful impulses to the unjust. These are the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Loriah.*

We do not know how far one ought to admit this reciprocal influence between beings plunged in sleep and controlled in some fashion by involuntary attractions, so that the good improve the good, and the wicked make those who are like them worse still. It would be more comforting to think that the good nature of the just shines on the wicked to calm them down, and that the restiveness of the wicked cannot affect the soul of the just. What is certain, is that evil thoughts disturb the sleep and make it unwholesome in consequence, and that a good conscience does wonders in refreshing and resting the blood during sleep.

At the same time it is highly probable that the magnetic radiation which has been fixed during the day by the habits and the will, does not stop during the night. This is proved by the fact that our dreams are where we often act out our most secret desires. 'Only he,' says St Augustine 'has truly attained the virtue of chastity who imposes modesty even on his dreams.'

All the stars are magnetic, and all the celestial magnets act and react on one another in the planetary systems, in the universes and throughout infinity! The same holds good for the beings living on the earth.

The nature and force of the magnets is determined by the reciprocal influence of their forms on the force and of the force on their forms. It is necessary to examine and meditate on this with serious attention.

That beauty which is the harmony of forms is always associated with a great power of attraction; but there are doubtful and debatable beauties.

There are conventional beauties in line with certain tastes and certain passions. It was discovered at the court of Louis XV that the Venus de Milo had a large waist and big feet. In the East, the sultan's concubines are fat and, in the kingdom of Siam women are bought by weight.

Men are prepared to perpetrate follies for the beauty which subjugates them, whether that beauty is real or imaginary. So it is forms then which intoxicate us and exercise the empire of fatal forces over our better judgement. When our tastes are depraved we are smitten with certain imaginary beauties which are really eyesores. When the Romans became decadent they fell in love with the low brow and frog eyes of Messalina. Down here everyone makes his own kind of paradise. But this is where justice comes in: the paradise of depraved creatures is always and inevitably a hell.

It is the intentions of the will which decide the value of deeds, because it is the will which fixes the goal one sets for oneself, and it is always the goal desired and attained which governs the character of one's works. It is according to our works that God will judge us, as the Evangelist says, and not according to our deeds. Our deeds prepare, begin, carry on and finish our works. They are good when the work is good, and bad when it is bad. We have no wish to say that the end justifies the means, only that a worthy end necessitates worthy means and imparts some merit to actions of the most indifferent sort.

You do or get done the thing of which you approve because you encourage it. If your rule of conduct is false, if your aims are iniquitous, all those who think like you do behave as you would behave if you were them; and when they succeed, you think they have done well. If your actions seem to be those of a good man, while all the time your intentions are those of a scoundrel, your actions will become wicked. The prayers of the hypocrite are more impious than the blasphemies of the miscreant. To sum up, everything which promotes injustice is unjust; everything one does for justice is just and good.

We have already said that human beings are magnets which act one on another. This magnetism which is natural at first, but is afterwards settled in a mode determined by the habits of the will, groups mankind in phalanges and sets far more perhaps than Fourier imagined. Anyway, it is true to say with him that the attractions are proportional to the destinies; but he went wrong when he failed to differentiate between inevitable attractions and artificial attractions. He also believed that criminals are those who are misunderstood by society, whereas on the contrary it is they who do not understand society and have no intention of understanding it. What would he have done in his phalanstery with people whose attraction, proportional to their destiny according to him, had disrupted and tended to disintegrate the phalanstery?

In our book entitled The Science of Spirits, we have set down the traditional qabalistic classification of good and evil spirits. Superficial readers may have asked: why these names rather than others? What spirit descending from heaven, or what soul climbing back out of the abyss, has been able to reveal these hierarchical secrets of the other world? All this is nothing but the height of fantasy. But in saying so, these readers would have been deceived. This classification is not arbitrary, and if we postulate the existence of such and such spirits in the other world it is because they most certainly do exist there. Anarchy, presumption, obscurantism, fraud, hatred and unfairness are set against wise conduct, authority, intelligence, honour, kindness and justice. The Hebrew names Kether, Chokmah, Binah; the names Thamiel, Chaigidel, Satariel, etc., opposed to the names Hajoth Haccadosh, Ophanim, Aralim, etc., signify nothing else.

The same is true of all the important words and all the obscure terms of any dogma, ancient or modern; in the last analysis they enshrine the principles of eternal and incorruptible reason. It is evident, yes certain, that the masses are not yet ripe for the reign of reason and that the biggest fools or the biggest knaves among them mislead them time and again with blind creeds. Folly for folly, I can find more genuine socialism in Loyola than I can in Proudhon.

Proudhon affirms that atheism is an article of faith, the worst of all, it is true, which is why he has adopted it. He affirms that God is bad, that the social order is anarchy, that property is theft! What society is possible on such principles?

The Society of Jesus is established on the opposite principles, call them opposite errors if you like, and for centuries now it has held its own and is still strong enough to hold its own against the partisans of anarchy for years to come.

It is not perfectly balanced, it is true, but it still knows how to throw heavier weights on the scales than those of our friend Proudhon.

Men are more united in evil than they imagine. Proudhon made Veuillot what he was. Those who lit the faggots at Constance will have to answer before God for the massacres of Jean Ziska. The Protestants are responsible for the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day because they cut the throats of the Catholics. Perhaps in reality it is Marat who has killed Robespierre, just as it is Charlotte Corday who caused her friends the Girondins to be executed. Madame Dubarry, dragged to the national abattoire like a slaughterhouse animal lowing and unwilling, no doubt had no thought that she must pay the penalty for the tortures under Louis XVI. For often our greatest crimes are those we do not realize.

When Marat said that one task or humanity is to let a little blood to prevent a bigger haemorrhage still, from whom do you think he borrowed this maxim? -- From the mild and pious Fénelon.

Not long ago the previously unpublished letters of Madame Elisabeth were printed and, in one of these letters, the angelic princess declares that all is lost unless the king has the courage to cut off three heads. Whose? She does not say, perhaps those of Philippe d'Orléans, of La Fayette and of Mirabeau! A prince of her own family, a worthy man and a great man. Little does it matter; the gentle princess would like three heads. Later on Marat was asking for three hundred thousand; between the angel and the demon there is only a difference of a few zeros.

* Isaac Loriah Traité des Révolutions des Ames (P. Chacornac, 1905).

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