The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Three

Chapter IVThe Supernatural and the Divine

The man in the street calls anything which looks to him contrary to nature, supernatural.

The contest against nature is the insane dream of the ascetics; as if nature were not the very law of God.

They have given the name concupiscence to the legitimate allurements of nature. They have fought against sleep, against hunger and thirst, and against sexual desire. They have fought not simply to secure the triumph of superior attractions, but with the thought in mind that nature is corrupt and that the satisfaction of nature is an evil. The result has been strange aberrations. Insomnia has created delirium, fasting has eaten into the brain and filled it with phantoms, forced celibacy has given new life to monstrous impurities.

Incubi and succubi have infested the cloisters. Priapism and hysteria have always created a life of hell for monks with no vocation and for presumptuous nuns.

Saint Anthony and Saint Theresa struggled against lewd phantoms; in their imaginations they attended orgies of which ancient Babylon had no conception.

Marie Alacoque and Messalina suffered the same torments: those of a desire which has become exalted above nature and is impossible to satisfy.

At the same time, there is this difference between them, that if Messalina had been able to foresee Marie Alacoque, she would have envied her.

To see all men combined into a single individual, as Caligula would have wished in his thirst for blood, and to see this man of men open his breast and give her his bleeding and burning heart to dote on, and to dote on it as consolation for never being sated with love, what a dream that would have been for Messalina!

Love, that triumph of nature, cannot be ravished by her without her being indignant. When it imagines it has become supernatural its condition is unnatural and the most monstrous of impurities is that which profanes and prostitutes the idea of God in some way. Ixion, when he assaulted Juno and spent his virile strength on a naked female avenger, was, in the high symbolic philosophy of the ancients, the type of this sacrilegious passion punished in Tartarus by serpent fetters which bound him to an ever-whirling wheel. Erotic passion, when deflected from its legitimate object and raised to a foolish desire to commit some sort of violence on the infinite, is the wildest of mental aberrations, arid like the madness of the Marquis de Sade it thirsts for tortures and blood. The young girl lacerates her breasts with metal underwear, the exhausted man, misled by fastings and vigils, abandons himself completely to the depraved pleasures of a flagellation which is full of strange sensations, and then will fall worn out into hours of sleep filled with enervating dreams.

Diseases which are the despair of science will result from excesses like these. All the senses will lose their natural uses to assist illusory sensations; stigmata, more frightful than the sores of syphilis, will etch wounds in the hands and feet and around the head which ooze intermittently and are extremely painful. Soon the victim will no longer see, hear or take nourishment, and will remain plunged in a deep state of idiocy from which he will only emerge to die, unless a terrible reaction of hysteria and priapism occurs which will look like the direct action of a demon.

Woe, then, to Urbain Grandier and Gaufridi! The fury of the bacchantes who tore Orpheus to pieces will seem like innocent games compared to the frenzy of the pious doves of the Lord given over to the rage of sexual passion!

Who will tell us the indescribable romances of the Carthusian's cell or of the lonely pallet where the cloistered monk appears to sleep? The jealousies of the divine spouse, his acts of neglect which drive one to madness, his caresses which bring a thirst for love! The repulses of the succubus who is crowned with stars! The scornful looks of the Virgin, queen of the angels, the kindnesses of Jesus Christ!

Oh! the lips which have once drunk from this fatal cup remain parched and trembling. Hearts once fired by this delirium find the true sources of love dry and insipid. What is a man to a woman who has had dreams of a God? What is woman to the man whose heart has thrilled to the eternal beauty? Ah! poor, mad creatures, they no longer mean anything to you although they are everything; for they are reality, reason and life.

Your dreams are only dreams, your phantoms are only phantoms. God, the living law, God, the supreme wisdom, is in no way an accomplice of your follies nor the possible object of your hopeless passions; a bristle which has dropped from a man's beard, a single hair lost by a woman of flesh and blood are things much better and more positive than your consuming fancies. Give your sexual love to one another and let God have your adoration.

The true worship of God is not the prostration of man in a blind delirium; on the contrary, it is calm exaltation in reason and light. The true love of God is not Saint Anthony's nightmare; on the contrary it is profound peace, the tranquillity which arises from perfect order. Everything that man thinks of as supernatural in his own life is anti-natural, and whatever is antinatural is an offence to God. This is something of which a true sage should be well aware!

There is nothing supernatural, not even God, as nature shows. Nature is His law, His thought. Nature is Himself and if He could give the lie to nature He would be able to make an attempt on His own existence. The alleged divine miracle, if it emanated from the eternal order, would be the suicide of God.

A man may naturally heal others since Jesus Christ did it; saints and magnetizers have done it and are doing it every day. A man can rise from the earth, walk on the water, etc.; he can do everything that Jesus was able to do, who Himself said: 'Those who believe will do the works I do, and even greater works than these.'

Jesus resuscitated the dead, but He never evoked their souls. In resuscitating a man one relieves the lethargy which usually precedes death. Evoking after death imparts a retrograde movement to life; it does violence to nature, which Jesus could not do.

The divine miracle is nature when it obeys reason; the infernal miracle is nature when it seems to fall into confusion so as to obey folly. The true miracle is human life, good sense, patient and tranquil reason, the wisdom which can believe without peril because it can manage to doubt without rancour or anger; it is persistent goodwill which seeks, which studies, which waits. It is Rabelais, the man who praised wine, often drank water, performed all the duties of a good parish priest and wrote his Pantagruel. One day, when jean de La Fontaine had put his socks on inside out he solemnly asked whether Saint Augustine had as much sense as Rabelais. Put your socks on the right way, friend La Fontaine, and take care not to ask such questions in future; perhaps de Fontenelle is shrewd enough to understand you, but he is certainly not bold enough to answer you.

Not everything we imagine is God is God, and not everything we imagine is the Devil is the Devil.

What is divine baffles human appreciation, especially when it comes to ordinary men. Beauty is always simple, truth appears commonplace, and what is just escapes notice because nobody is shocked by it. Order is never observed; it is disorder which attracts attention because it is awkward and intrusive. Small children are insensible to harmony, for the most part, they prefer uproar and noise; exactly so, in life, many people look for drama and romance. They despise the beautiful sun and dream about the splendours of the lightning, they imagine that virtue goes with hemlock and Cato might have lived free; but if they had been true sages, would the world have recognized them?

Saint Martin, who gave the name 'unknown philosopher' to the initiates of true wisdom, did not believe it. To keep silent is one of the great laws of occultism. Now, to keep silent is to hide oneself. God is the all-powerful who conceals Himself, and Satan is the egotistical lack of power who is always trying to display himself.

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