The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Three

Chapter VSacred Rites and Accursed Rites

The Bible relates how two priests who had put profane fire in their censers were consumed as they stood before the altar by a jealous explosion of holy fire. This story is a warning allegory.

To tell the truth, rites are neither indifferent nor arbitrary. Efficacious rites are those which are consecrated by the legitimate authority. Sacrilegious rites always produce an effect which is contrary to that intended by the rash operator.

The rites of the ancient religions, superseded and annulled by Christianity, are profane and accursed rites for those who have no serious belief in those religions now outlawed.

Neither Judaism nor the other great faiths of the East have yet said their last word. They are condemned but not yet judged; and until judgement has been passed their declarations may be treated as legitimate.

Those rites which have been left behind in the march of religious progress are profane and to a certain extent accursed by this very token. The time will come when grandeurs in the Judaic dogma which are still unknown will be opened to the understanding, but this will not mean that the Christian world will revert to circumcision.

The Samaritan schism was a return to the symbolism of Egypt, and nothing remains of it. The ten tribes have disappeared, to be mingled with the gentiles and absorbed by them for ever.

The rites of the Hebrew grimoires, already condemned by the Law of Moses, belong to the worship of the patriarchs who sacrificed victims on the mountains in the process of evoking visions. It is a crime to want to go back to the sacrifice of Abraham.

The Catholic and Orthodox Christians alone have established a doctrine and set up a form of worship; the heretics and sectarians have been able to do no more than deny, suppress and destroy. They conduct us in the direction of a vague deism and the negation of all revealed religion. In other words they relegate God to such deep obscurity that people are hardly interested to know whether He really exists any more.

Outside the authoritative and positive affirmations of Moses and Jesus Christ concerning the Godhead, there are only doubts, hypotheses and fantasies.

For those ancient races who hated the Jews and whom the Jews detested, God was nothing more than the Spirit of Nature, gracious as the spring and terrible as the tempest; and the thousand transformations of this protean being peopled the various pantheons of the world with a great multitude of gods.

But above all reigned Destiny, or Fate. The gods of the ancients were only natural forces. Nature herself was the great Panthea. The fatal consequences of such a dogma were inevitably materialism and slavery.

The God of Moses and of Jesus Christ is One. He is spirit; He is eternal, independent, immutable and infinite; He can do all things, He has created all things and He rules all things. He has made man in His own image and likeness. He is our only Father and our only Master. The consequences of these doctrines are spirituality and liberty.

Unfortunately, an antagonism between the things themselves has been understood on the basis of this antagonism between ideas. Pantheism has been made out to be an enemy of God, as if pantheism had any real existence other than in God's own empire. Nature has been set up as a power in revolt; love has been called Satan; matter has been given a spirit which it cannot possibly have and, by the fatalistic law of equilibrium, the result has been to make religious doctrines materialistic. A misconception has arisen from this conflict, or should we say a vast misunderstanding: it is that man has recovered his freedom in the name of the fatalism which fetters him and is enslaved in the name of God who alone is able and desires to set him free. The outcome of this perversity of judgment is an incredible malaise and a sort of moral paralysis because one can see dangers at every turn.

You may take my word for it that I have not the slightest inclination to choose between Proudhon and Veuillot.

Dead religions never revive, and as Jesus Christ has said, a man does not put new wine in old bottles. When the rites become ineffectual the priesthood disappears. Nevertheless, the secret rites of the universal religion are preserved through all the religious changes, and it is in the rationale and value of these rites that the great secret of Freemasonry consists.

In fact, the masonic symbols in their totality constitute a religious synthesis which is still missed by the Roman Catholic priesthood. Count Joseph de Maistre felt this instinctively; and when, fearing to see the world without religion, he aspired after a close alliance between science and faith, he involuntarily turned his eyes towards the half-open doors of occultism.

Today, masonic occultism no longer exists, and the portals of initiation have been flung wide open. All has been divulged, all has been written down. The Tiler and the masonic rituals are on sale for anyone to buy. The Grand-Orient has no more mysteries, or at least no more for the layman than for the initiates; but the masonic rites still trouble the heart of Rome, because she feels they have some power in them which escapes her.

This power is the liberty of the human conscience, it is the independent essential ethics of every cult. It is the right not to be damned or consigned to eternal death because one does without the ministrations of the priests; a ministration which is only necessary for those who feel the need for it, respectable for everybody when it is offered without imposition, horrible when it is abused.

The ban of the Church strengthens its enemies. Unjust excommunication is a sort of hallowing. Jacques de Molay, burnt at the stake, was the judge of the pope and the king. Savonarola, burnt by Alexander VI, was then the venerable vicar and representative of Jesus Christ; and when he refused the sacraments to the bogus Jansenists, the deacon Pâris performed miracles.

Two kinds of rites, therefore, can be efficacious in magic: sacred rites and accursed rites, since malediction is a negative consecration. Exorcism makes possession, and when the infallible Church endeavours to chase the Devil away she goes some way towards creating him.

The Roman Catholic Church exactly reproduces the image of God as He has been depicted with so much genius by the authors of the Siphra Dzeniûta expounded by Rabbi Simeon and his disciples. She has two faces, one of light, the other of shade, and as far as she is concerned harmony results from the analogy of contraries. The face of light is the gentle and smiling countenance of Mary. The dark face is the grimace of the demon. I dare to tell the demon quite openly what I think of his grimace, and I do not think this will offend the Church my mother. If perchance she condemns my temerity; if the decision of some future council declares the personal existence of the Devil, I shall bow to it on the strength of my principles themselves. I have stated that the word creates what it affirms; now, the Church is the depositary of the authority of the word; at such time as it affirms not only the real but the personal existence of the Devil, the Devil will personally exist, the Roman Church having created him.

The madonnas who do miracles always have black faces, because the general populace loves to look on the dark side of religion. The same applies to doctrines as to contrasty pictures: if you reduce the shadows you weaken the highlights.

It is necessary to re-establish in the Church the priesthood of illumination in place of the priesthood of temporal influence. It is necessary for the clergy to be taught science, for the deep study of nature to redress and direct exegesis. It is necessary for the priests to be mature men, who have proved themselves in the battles of life; for the bishops to be superior to the priests in wisdom and virtue; for the pope to be more learned and wise than the bishops. It is necessary that the priests should be elected by the laity, the bishops by the priests and the pope by the bishops. It is necessary that there should be a progressive initiation into the priesthood, that the occult sciences should be studied by the candidates for the sacred ministry, above all that great Jewish Qabalah which is the key to all symbology. Only thus will the true universal religion be revealed, and the Catholicism of all ages and peoples replace the present absurd and odious Catholicism which is the enemy of progress and liberty, which still fights in the world against truth and justice, but whose reign has already passed away for ever.

In the present-day Church, as in Judaism during the days of Jesus Christ, tares are mixed in with the good corn, and one dare not touch the tares for fear of rootin out the wheat. The Church is being punished by her own anathemas; she is cursed because she has cursed. The sword she has drawn has turned against her, just as the Master predicted.

Maledictions belong to hell and anathemas are the acts of the popery of Satan. They should be shut up again in the grimoire of Honorius. The true Church of God prays for sinners and has no care for cursing them.

Fathers are censured who curse their children, but no-one has been found to admit that a mother might have cursed hers. The rites of excommunication used in barbaric times were those of sympathetic, or black, magic, as it proved by the fact that the holy things were veiled and all the lights were extinguished to render homage to darkness. Then the populaces were incited to rebel against their kings, extermination and hatred were preached, whole realms were interdicted, and the magnetic current of evil was strengthened by all possible means. This current has become a powerful vortex which is shaking the Chair of Peter, but the Church will triumph by indulgence and pardon. A day will come when the last anathemas of an oecumenical council will be these: Accursed be malediction, let anathemas be anathematized, and may all men be blessed! - Then we shall no longer see mankind on one side and the Church on the other; for the Church will embrace mankind, and whoever is included in humanity cannot be otherwise than within the pale of the Church.

Dissident doctrines will only be regarded as ignorance. Love will do gentle violence to hatred, and we shall remain united by all the sentiments of sincere brotherhood, even with those who would wish to separate themselves from us. At that time religion will have conquered the world, and the Jews, our fathers and brothers, will join us in greeting the spiritual reign of the Messiah. This is the future prospect for our earth, which is now so desolate and unhappy: the second coming of the Saviour, the manifestation of grand Catholicism and the triumph of Messianism, our hope and our faith! ...

top of page