The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Two

Chapter XII The Terrible Secret

Some truths will ever remain mysterious for the slow-witted and the foolish; and we need not be afraid to tell them these truths, because it is quite certain that they will never understand them.

What is a fool? One who is somewhat more irrational than a dumb animal. He is a man who wants to run before he can crawl; a man who thinks he has mastered a subject as soon as he had made a little progress in it; a mathematician who looks down his nose at poetry; a poet who condemns mathematics; a painter who says that theology and the Qabalah are stuff and nonsense; an uneducated man who repudiates knowledge without taking the trouble to study it; a man who talks without knowing what he is talking about and makes assertions without certainty. Fools are the people who kill men of genius. Galileo was not condemned by the Church, but by the fools who, unfortunately, belonged to the Church. Folly is a wild beast which has the composure of innocence; it assassinates without remorse. The fool is the bear in La Fontaine's fable; he breaks his friend's head under a paving-stone to whisk away a fly; but do not try to make him admit he is at fault when things go badly wrong. Folly, like Hell and Fate, is inexorable and infallible, because it is always controlled by the magnetism of evil.

The animal is never a fool, because it openly and naturally plays the role of an animal; but man teaches folly to dogs and intelligent donkeys. The fool is the animal who despises instinct and poses as intelligent.

Progress is a possibility for the animal: it can be broken in, tamed and trained; but it is not a possibility for the fool, because the fool thinks he has nothing to learn. It is his place to dictate to others and put them right, and so it is impossible to reason with him. He will laugh you to scorn in saying that what he does not understand is not a meaningful proposition. 'Why don't I understand it, then?', he asks you, with marvellous impudence. To tell him it is because he is a fool would only be taken as an insult, so there is nothing you can say in reply. Everybody else sees it quite clearly, but he will never realize it.

Here then, at the outset, is a potent secret which is inaccessible to the majority of people; a secret which they will never guess and which it would be useless to tell them: the secret of their own stupidity.

Socrates had to drink hemlock, Aristotle was banished, Jesus was crucified, Aristophanes mocked Socrates and made the fools of Athens laugh at him, a country bumpkin got tired of hearing Aristides called the just, and Renan wrote his 'Life of Jesus' for the delectation of fools. It is owing to the almost infinite number of fools that politics is and always will be the science of double-dealing and lies. Machiavelli dared to make this known and has been quite rightly censured, for under the pretence of giving lessons to princes he betrayed them all and exposed them to the mistrust of the masses. It is important not to alert those whom one is forced to deceive.

Jesus was thinking of the base and silly masses when he said to His disciples: 'Do not throw pearls to pigs, because they will tread on them with their trotters and turn on you to tear you to pieces.'

You, then, who want to do great things, never tell anybody your inmost thoughts, not even that wife you love; and I might almost say hide them chiefly from her -- remember the story of Samson and Delilah!

As soon as a wife knows her husband through and through she stops loving him. She wants to control him and manage him. If he resists her she hates him; if he surrenders she despises him. She looks round for some other man she can probe into. Women always need the unknown and the mysterious, and their love is often nothing more than an insatiable curiosity.

Why do confessors hold such total sway over the souls, and nearly always over the hearts, of women? It is because they know all their secrets, while the women do not know those of their confessors.

Freemasonry is only so powerful in the world because of its dread secret, so wonderfully well kept that the initiates, even those who are in the highest degrees, do not know it.

The Catholic religion keeps its hold on the masses by a secret unknown to the Pope himself. It is the secret of the mysteries. The old Gnostics knew it, as indicated by their name, but they did not know how to keep silent. They wanted to popularize gnosis, and came out with ridiculous doctrines which the Church was right to condemn. Unhappily, when they were condemned, so was the entrance to the occult sanctuary and the portal keys were hurled into the abyss.

Into that pit the Hospitaliers and Templars dared to go to fetch them, at the risk of eternal damnation. Did they deserve to be damned for this in the other world? We only know that in this world the Templars were burned at the stake.

The secret doctrine of Jesus was this:

People have looked on God as overlord, and evil as the prince of this world; I, who am the Son of God, tell you: Do not go looking for God out in space, He is in our consciences and in our hearts. My Father and I are completely One, and I wish you and Me to be only one also. Let us love one another like brothers. Have only one heart and one soul. The religious law was made for man, not man for the law. The legal prescriptions are brought to the free arbitration of our reason united with faith. Believe in what is good and evil will not have you in its power.

When you come together in my Name, my Spirit will be in the midst of you. No one of you must imagine that he is the master of the others, but all must respect the decision of the assembly. Every man has to be judged by his works, and measured according to the measure he himself adopts when measuring. Each man's conscience comprises his faith, it is the power of God in him.

If you have mastered yourself, nature will obey you and you will govern the others. The faith of the just is more unshakeable than the gates of Hell, and their hope shall never be confounded.

I am you and you me, in the spirit of love which is ours, and is God. Believe this and your word will be creative. Believe this and you will perform miracles. The world will persecute you, and you will overcome the world.

The good are those who show charity and those who help the afflicted; the wicked are the hearts which are pitiless, and these will be eternally reprobated by humanity and reason.

The old forms of society, founded on falsehood shall perish; one day the Son of Man shall be enthroned above the clouds of Heaven, which are the shades of idolatry, and will pronounce a final judgement on the living and the dead.

Desire the light, for it will shine forth. Aspire after justice, for it will come. Do not seek to triumph by the sword, for murder begets murder. It is by patience and gentleness that you will become masters of yourselves and of the world.

Now read this admirable teaching in the commentaries of the sophists during the era of decadence and in those of the quibblers of the Middle Ages, and you will see some strange things extracted from it. -- If Jesus was the Son of God, how did God beget Him? Has He the same substance as God, or has He a different substance? The substance of God! What an eternal subject of dispute for presumptuous ignorance! Was He a divine person or a human person? Did He have two natures and two wills? Terrible questions these, which certainly merit excommunication or a slit throat! -- 'Jesus had one nature and two wills', said one party, but do not listen to them, they are heretics! 'Two natures, then, and one will?' -- 'No, two wills'. -- 'Then He was in opposition to Himself?' 'No, for these two wills only made one, which is called Theandric.' -- Ah, yes! In the face of this word we must say no more, especially as we have to obey the Church, which has changed into something quite different from the primitive assembly of the faithful. Jesus said that the law is made for man, but the Church says that man is made for the Church, and it is she who imposes the law. God will ratify all the decrees of the Church and will damn you all if she decides that you are all, or nearly all, of you damned. Jesus said you have to agree with the assembly, therefore it is infallible, therefore it is God, therefore if it makes up its mind that two and two make five, two and two shall make five.

If it says that the earth is still and the sun goes round it, the earth is forbidden to turn. It will tell you that God saves His elect by giving them enabling grace, and that the remainder will be damned for only receiving sufficient grace, which is sufficient in principle but is actually insufficient because of original sin; it will also inform you that the Pope saves and damns whom he pleases, since he has the keys of Heaven and Hell. Then along come the casuists with their bunches of key which do not open, but double and triple lock all the doors of all the suites of rooms planned in the Tower of Babel. O Rabelais, my master, you alone can bring a suitable panacea for all this mental aberration! An enormous peal of laughter! Come, sum all this up in one last word for us, and inform us whether a bag of wind which goes pop in a vacuum can be blown up a second time and ballasted with the marvellous quiddity of our second intentions?

Utrum chimaera in vacuum bombinans possit concidere secundum intentiones?

Other fools, other commentaries. Here come the adversaries of the Church who tell us: God is in man, which means that there is no other God than the human intellect. If man is above the religious law and finds it inconvenient, why not suppress the law? If God is us and we are brothers, all of us, if nobody has the right to set himself up as our master, why should we obey? Faith is the reason of imbeciles. Believe nothing and submit to no-one.

That's right! Be high and mighty. But you will have to fight it out, all against all and each against each. This is the war of the gods and the extermination of the human race! Alas! alas! misery and folly! ... Then more and more folly; folly and misery!

'Father, forgive them,' said Jesus, 'for they know not what they do' -- People of good sense whoever you may be, I will add, do not listen to them, for they know not what they say.

In that case they are innocent, some enfant terrible will exclaim. -- Silence, thoughtless one! Silence, in the name of Heaven, or all morality is lost! Besides, you are mistaken. If they were innocent it would be permissible to do as they do, and would you wish to imitate them? Total credulity is a folly; so it is not possible for folly to be innocent. If there are any extenuating circumstances, only God can make allowances for them.

Our species is obviously defective, and from what one hears and sees the majority of men behave as if they were not possessed of sufficient brains to be genuinely responsible. Listen to the parliamentary debates of the men whom France (the first country in the world) has honoured with her confidence.

There stands the spokesman for the opposition. Here is the minister. Each of them proves conclusively to the other that he understands absolutely nothing about affairs of State. A proves that B is a cretin, and B proves that A is a mountebank. Whom should one believe? If you are white, you will believe A; if you are red, you will believe B. But the truth, the truth! -- The truth is that A and B are two charlatans and two liars; seeing that the claims of both are doubtful, each has been able to show that the other's position is worthless. I admire their proofs, and I admire the pair of them for the way they have demolished each other. Folk can find anything they like in books, except often what the author was trying to say. Folk laugh at religion, but send their children to church. Folk make a great pretence of cynicism, and yet they are superstitious. What people fear above all is common sense, truth and reason.

Childish vanity and sordid interest lead human beings by the nose until death, the final oblivion, the last laugh. Vanity lies at the bottom of most souls. Well, what is vanity? It is emptiness. Multiply zero by itself as many times as you like and it will always be zero, add up noughts and you will get nothing, nothing, nothing. Nothing, that is what the majority of men have planned for.

And these are the immortals! These souls so ridiculously deceiving and deceived are imperishable! For all these unthinking individuals Life is a supreme fall-trap over Hell! Oh! There is certainly a terrible secret as far as that is concerned: it is that of responsibility. The father answers for the children, the master for his servants, and the intelligent man for the unintelligent herd. Redemption comes through all superior men; folly suffers, but only the spirit atones.

The pain of a crushed worm or of a lacerated oyster cannot expiate.

Know then, O thou who wishest to be initiated into the great mysteries, that thou makest a pact with suffering and encounterest Hell. The vulture which gorged itself on Prometheus' entrails has fixed its eye upon thee, and the Furies, led by Mercury, are preparing the blocks of wood and the nails. Thou shalt be sacred, that is to say, consecrated to torment. Humanity has need of thine agonies.

Christ died as a young man on a cross, and all those whom He has initiated have been martyrs. Apollonius of Tyana died of the tortures inflicted on him in the prisons of Rome. Paracelsus and Agrippa led wanderer's lives and died wretchedly. William Postel died a prisoner. Saint-Germain and Cagliostro met a mysterious and probably tragic end. Sooner or later the pact has to be satisfied, either formally or tacitly. Compensation must be paid by every plunderer of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It is necessary to free oneself from the tax nature has put on miracles. A final battle with the Devil has to be faced when one ventures to be as God.

Eritis sicut dii scientes bonum et malum.*

* Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

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