The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Two

Chapter X Evocations

Reason alone gives the right to liberty. Liberty and reason, these two great and essential privileges of mankind, are so closely united that one cannot be renounced unless the use of the other is also given up. Liberty wills the triumph of reason and reason imperiously demands the reign of liberty. Liberty and reason are more important that life itself to man. It is beautiful to die for liberty, and it is sublime to be a martyr for reason, because reason and liberty are the very essence of the soul's immortality.

God Himself is the free reason of all that exists.

The devil, on the other hand, is fatal irrationalism.

To forswear one's reason or one's liberty is to disown God. To make any appeal to what is irrational or fatalistic is to evoke the devil. We have already said that the devil does exist, and that he is a thousand times more horrible and pitiless than the legends describe him, even at their most gruesome. For us and for reason, he could not possibly be the fine fallen angel of Milton, nor flashing Lucifer, trailing his starry glory through the night with here and there the glitter of lightning. Such titanic fables are impious. The true devil is the one sculptured in our cathedrals and depicted by the naive illuminators of our Gothic books. His essentially hybrid form is the synthesis of all nightmares; it is hideous, deformed and grotesque. He is fettered and binds others in fetters. He has eyes everywhere, except in his head; he has faces in his stomach, in his knees, and on his unspeakably filthy rump. He is everywhere where folly can find a footing, and everywhere he drags behind him the torments of hell.

He himself does not utter a syllable, but he makes all our vices speak; he is the ventriloquist who operates the gluttons, the Python of abandoned women. At times his voice is as impetuous as the whirlwind, at times it is as insinuating as a low hiss. To converse with our troubled brains he inserts his forked tongue into our ears and to undo our hearts he shakes his tail like an arrow. In our head he slays reason, in our hearts he poisons liberty, and he does this always and of necessity unremittingly, because he is not a person but a blind force; he is accursed, but accursed with us; he is a sinner, but he sins in us. We alone are responsible for the evil which he makes us do, because as for him, he has neither liberty nor reason.

The devil is the beast; Saint John hammers this home in his marvellous Apocalypse; but how can one comprehend the Apocalypse without the keys of the holy Qabalah?

An evocation, therefore, is an appeal to the beast, and only the beast can respond. We might add that to make the beast appear one must first form it within oneself and then project it outside. This secret is that of all the grimoires, but it was only expressed by the ancient masters in a very veiled manner.

To see the devil it is necessary to make oneself up like the devil and then look in a mirror. This is the secret in its simplicity, so that even a child could understand it. Let us add for the benefit of men that, in the mysteries of sorcerers, the devilish countenance is imprinted on the soul by the astral intermediary, and the mirror is darkness animated as the head reels.

Every evocation would be in vain if the magician did not commence by damning his soul in sacrificing for ever his liberty and his reason. It is easy to understand this. To create the beast in us it is essential to kill the man; which is what was represented previously by the sacrifice of a child, and even more distinctly by the profanation of a host. The man who elects to perform an evocation is a wretch who is embarrassed by reason and wishes to magnify in himself the bestial appetites, so that he can turn them into a magnetic centre endowed with a fatal influence. He wishes to personify unreason and fatalism; he wishes to become a disordered magnet, and an evil one too, to attract to himself the vices and the gold which feed them. It is the most terrible crime which the imagination could dream of. It is the rape of nature. It is the direct and absolute outrage thrown in the face of divinity; but also, and happily so, it is a frightfully difficult task, and most of those who have attempted it have come unstuck in the accomplishment. If a man who was strong enough and perverse enough were to evoke the devil in the required conditions, the devil would materialize. God would be held back and terror-stricken nature would be subjected to the despotism of evil.

It is said that years ago a certain man undertook this monstrous work and that he became pope. It is also related that on his deathbed he confessed to enveloping the whole Church in a web of black magic. One thing is certain: this pope was as deeply instructed as Faust, and it is claimed he was the author of several wonderful inventions. We have mentioned him already in one of our books. However, the proof, according to the legend itself, that he did not evoke the devil, that is to say, did not become the devil, is his repentance. The devil never repents.

The reason why the majority of men are mediocrities, is that they are always incomplete. Decent people sometimes do wrong, and scoundrels forget themselves at times to the extent of forming some good wish which they carry out. Now, sins against God weaken the power of God in man, and sins against the devil (by which I mean good desires and deeds) weaken the power of the devil. To exercise any exceptional power either above or below, on the right hand or the left hand, it is essential to be a whole man.

Fear and remorse in criminals are two things which originate from good, and these lead them to betray themselves. To succeed in wickedness one has to be absolutely wicked. We are assured that Mandrin heard confession from his brigands, and gave them as a penance the murder of some child or woman when they admitted to him that they had felt some pity. Nero had some good in him, he was an artistic performer, and this was his undoing. He gave up, and committed suicide in vexation at being underrated as a musician. If he had been nothing more than an emperor he would have burnt Rome a second time sooner than give way to the Senate and to Vindex; the people were on his side; he had only to shower them with gold and the praetors would have acclaimed him once more. Nero's suicide was the action of an artist trying to show off.

To succeed in turning himself into Satan would not be a complete triumph for human perversity, if immortality were not won at the same time. Prometheus can take the suffering on his rock; he knows that one day his chain will be broken and that he will dethrone Jupiter; but to be Prometheus one has to have stolen the fire of heaven, and we are not yet in reach of the fire of hell!

No, the dream of Satan is not that of Prometheus. If a rebel angel had ever been able to snatch the fire of heaven, that is to say the divine secret of life, he would be like God. Only man is sufficiently stupid and limited in intelligence to believe in the existence of a possible solution to this sort of theorem: to make what is what is not, at one and the same time; to make shadow light, death life, a lie the truth, and nothingness everything. Besides, the wild idiot who wants to realize the absolute in evil will end at last, like the careless alchemist, in a tremendous explosion which will bury him in the wreckage of his ridiculous laboratory.

An instantaneous and overwhelming death has resulted at times from infernal evocations, and one cannot help admitting that it was only too well deserved. One does not go with impunity to the limits of extreme lunacy. There are certain excesses that nature will not countenance. If sleep-walkers have sometimes died when woken with a start, if a certain degree of drunkenness causes death ... But perhaps someone will ask, what use are these retrospective warnings -- who in this day and age would dream of making evocations with a grimoire ritual? We have no reply to make to this question, for if we told everything we knew it is likely that no-one would believe us!

There are also other ways of evoking the magnetism of evil than by the rituals of the ancient world. We said in our last chapter that a Mass profaned by criminal intentions becomes an outrage offered to God and an offence by the man against his own conscience. Consulting oracles, either when the head swims in a state of hallucination, or by noting the uncontrolled movements of inert objects magnetized at random, are also forms of infernal evocation, because they are acts which tend to subordinate liberty and reason to fate. It is true that those who carry out the instructions in books of black magic are nearly always innocent by their very ignorance. They make their appeal to the beast, it is true, but it is not the ferocious beast which would serve their lusts they want. They are only asking advice of the stupid beast, as a little assistance for their own stupidity.

In the magic of light, the science of evocations is the art of magnetizing the currents in the astral light and of directing them at will. This science was that practised by Zoroaster and King Solomon, if one can believe the old traditions; but to do what was done by Zoroaster and Solomon, it is necessary to have the wisdom of Solomon and the learning of Zoroaster.

To direct and dominate the magnetism of good, it is requisite to be the best of men. To activate and precipitate the vortex of evil it is necessary to be the worst. Sincere Catholics do not doubt that the prayers of a poor recluse can change the mind of kings and settle the destinies of empires. We are far from scorning this belief, we who admit that life is collective, who acknowledge the magnetic currents and the relative omnipotence of the will.

Before the recent scientific discoveries, the phenomena of electricity and magnetism were attributed to spirits diffused in the atmosphere, and the adept who managed to influence the magnetic currents thought he was commanding spirits. But since the magnetic currents are fatalistic forces, one has to be a perfectly balanced centre oneself before one can control and balance them, which can hardly be said of the majority of these reckless sorcerers.

They were also often struck down in a violent flash by the imponderable fluid, which they were unable to neutralize. They admitted, too, that they lacked the indispensable thing for gaining absolute mastery over spirits: the Ring of Solomon.

But according to legend the ring of Solomon is still on that monarch's finger, and his body is shut up in a rock which will not break open until the last judgement.

Like all legends, this one is true. All it needs is understanding.

What is meant by the ring? -- a ring is the end of a chain, a circle to which other circles may be fastened.

Chief priests have always worn rings as a sign of their authority over the circle and over the chain of the faithful.

In our own days prelates are still invested with the ring; and, in the marriage service, the bridegroom gives the bride a ring which has been blessed and consecrated by the Church, in order to make her the mistress and controller of his household affairs and of his circle of servants.

Hence the pontifical ring and the wedding ring which has been consecrated and conferred hierarchically, represent and bring into being a certain power.

But public and social power is one thing, sympathetic, philosophical and occult power is another.

Solomon is supposed to have been sovereign pontiff of the religion of the initiates, which gave him the right to the royal prerogative of the occult priesthood, for he possessed -- so it is said -- universal knowledge, and in him alone was realized the promise of the great serpent: 'Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.'

Some say that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, the most rationalist of all his works, after worshipping Astarte and Chamos, the gods of heathen women he had married. In this way he would have completed his knowledge and rediscovered the magic virtue of his ring before he died. Did he really take it with him into the tomb? Another legend introduces an element of doubt at this point. It tells how the Queen of Sheba, after examining this ring with great care, had an exactly similar one made secretly; and how, while the king slept, she chanced to be near him and was able to carry out a furtive exchange of rings. She went home to the Sabeans with the true ring of Solomon, and this ring was later found by Zoroaster.

It was a gem-encrusted ring, composed of the seven great metals, and bearing the signature of the seven spirits, with a rose-red lodestone having the usual seal of Solomon engraved on one side:

Seal of Solomon

and his magic seal engraved on the other:

Seal of Solomon, side 2

Those who have read our books will understand this allegory.

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