The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Three

Chapter VIConcerning Divination

Divination may be carried out in two ways: by sagacity or by second sight.

Sagacity is the accurate observation of facts together with the legitimate inference of effects and causes.

Second sight is a special intuition, comparable to that exhibited by clairvoyants who read the past, present and future in the universal light. Edgar Allan Poe, a clairvoyant on artificial stimulants, wrote in his Tales about a certain Auguste Dupin who read thoughts and unravelled the mysteries of the most tangled affairs by using a very special system of observations and deductions.

It would be all to the good if examining magistrates were thoroughly initiated into August Dupin's system.

Quite often, clues which are neglected as insignificant would lead to the truth being discovered if they were followed up. At times this truth would be strange, unexpected and almost unbelievable, as in Poe's tale, The Murders in The Rue Morgue. What would be said, for instance, if it came out that no-one was really responsible for the poisoning of Mr Lafarge, that it was perpetrated by a sleep-walker who, impelled by vague fears (if she were a woman), went furtively in her sleep, while in a deceptive clairvoyant state, to make a substitution, to mix the arsenic, baking powder and powdered gum in Marie Capelle's boxes, believing in her dream that this would prevent the poisoning she might have feared for her son?

Of course we are advancing an inadmissible hypothesis here, after the verdict of guilty, but one which, before the verdict, might have been worth careful examination in the light of the following facts:

1. Mrs Lafarge, the mother, kept on talking about poisoning and mistrusted her daughter-in-law who, in an unfortunate letter, boasted about possessing arsenic;
2. The same lady never undressed and even slept in her shawl;
3. Some extraordinary noises were heard at night in this old Grandier house;
4. The arsenic was scattered everywhere throughout the house, on the furniture, in the drawers, on the fabrics, in a way which excluded all intelligence and reason;
5. There was arsenic mixed with the powdered gum in a box which Marie Capelle herself sent to her young friend Emma Pontier, as containing the gum she used for herself and which she admitted having mixed in Mr Lafarge's drinks.

Such singular circumstances would have undoubtedly exercised the sagacity of August Dupin or of Zadig, but made no impression whatsoever on the jurors and judges mortally biased against the accused by the wretched evidence of the theft of the diamonds. So she was condemned quite fairly, for justice is always in the right; but we do know with what energy the unhappy woman protested right up to her death, and what reputable sympathizers she had around her until her final moments.

Another convicted person, less attractive no doubt, also protested his innocence at the bar of religion and his fellow men up to the dread moment of death. He was the unhappy Léotade, accused and found guilty of the murder and rape of a child. Edgar Allan Poe could have based one of his gripping tales on this tragic report. He would have altered the names of those involved and set the scene in England or America, and might have put these words into the mouth of Auguste Dupin:

The child went into the educational establishment, from which she was not seen to emerge. The porter, who always locked the door with a key, was only away for a moment. When he came back the child was no longer there, but she had left the door open.

The unfortunate infant was discovered the following day in the cemetery, near to the wall of the boarding-school. She was dead, and appeared to have been battered by someone's fists, her ears were torn, and she bore the marks of a completely abnormal sexual assault: her injuries were frightful to see. There were no other special features such as would accompany a rape carried out by a man.

In addition to this she did not look as if she had fallen where she lay, but as if she had been put there. Her clothes were wrapped under and around her. She was dry, although it had been raining all night; she must have been brought there in a sack just before dawn, either through the gate or through a gap in the graveyard wall. Her garments were soiled by matter passed from the bowels, in which they appeared to have been rolled.

This is what must have happened. The little girl, on entering the parlour, suddenly needed to go to the toilet; accordingly she slipped outside by the door which had been left open, and as fate would have it was seen by nobody.

She looked for some dark alley next to the cemetery, and there she was pounced on by some evil woman whose doorway she might often have soiled, and who was on the watch, having sworn to give a severe beating to any boy or girl she could catch.

This person threw her door open suddenly, started punching the child and bruised her face, pulled her ears half off, and rolled her in her own excreta. Then she saw that the hapless child no longer stirred. She had only wanted to beat her and had killed her.

What was she going to do with the corpse, or what she thought was a corpse, for the poor girl may have been stunned rather than dead? She hid the body in a sack, went out, and then overheard someone say that they were looking for a young boarder who had gone into the school but had not been seen to leave.

She was seized by a horrible idea: suspicion had to be diverted from her at all costs; the victim must be found at the foot of the school wall and look as if she had been raped, making it impossible to blame the crime on a woman.

So the assault was simulated by means of a stick, and it may be that the unfortunate child died during this last atrocity.

After night had fallen, the crone carried the sack into the cemetery, using a knife-blade to force the lock of its badly shut gate. She took the precaution of walking out backwards, obliterating her footprints as she went, and carefully shut the gate again.

This is the only hypothesis, according to Dupin, which can explain all the seemingly inexplicable circumstances in this dreadful story.

In fact, if the bursar of the school had violated the little girl he would have tried to smother her screams not to provoke them by pulling her ears violently and bruising her with blows. If she had cried out, her cries would have been heard, for the store-room, which was pointed out as the only possible place for the crime inside the house, contains windows overlooking a barracks full of soldiers and almost on a level with the sentry-box.

Not only so, but the accused was seen throughout the day, quietly performing his duties. Even his colleagues supported his alibi for the hour of the crime; but owing to one or two discrepancies and equivocations, they were accused of complicity or at the very least partiality, and it is therefore likely that he will be found guilty by the Philadelphia court.

So says Auguste Dupin in the 'unpublished tale by Poe' which we have imagined he might have written; a liberty we think we shall be allowed to take in order to offer our hypothesis without bringing ourselves into contempt of court.

We know how Solomon was wise enough to tell in an infallible manner who was the real mother of a child claimed by two women.

The study of physiognomy, bearing and habits is another sure way of telling a man's secret thoughts and character. The shapes of head and hand also provide valuable pointers for induction; but account must always be taken of the free human will, which can successfully counter evil inclinations natural to man.

It should also be borne in mind that someone who is naturally good can become depraved, and that often the best turn out to be the worst when they allow themselves to be degraded and corrupted. A knowledge of the great and infallible laws of equilibrium can help us here to predict the destiny of men. A nonentity or mediocre man will be able to attain everything and will never amount to nothing. A sensual man who throws himself into his excesses will perish in these same excesses, or else will be forced back into a contrary form of excess. The Christianity of the stylites and the desert fathers was inevitable after the debaucheries of Tiberius and Heliogabalus. In the heyday of Jansenism the ground was laid, exactly in that terrible form of Christianity whose folly is an outrage to nature, for the orgies of the Regency and the Directory. The excesses of liberty in '93 called forth despotism. The exaggeration of any force always turns to the advantage of the contrary force.

This is why, in philosophy and in religion, exaggerated truths become the most dangerous untruths. When, for example, Jesus Christ said to His apostles: 'Whoever hears you hears me, and he who listens to me pays attention to Him who sent me', He established a disciplined priesthood and unity of teaching; attributing by this method, which is divine because it is natural, a relative infallibility to those whom He Himself had taught, but not giving any ecclesiastical tribunal on this account the right to condemn the discoveries of Galileo. Exaggerations of the principle of doctrinal and disciplinary infallibility have led to the Church being caught red-handed persecuting the truth. The Church seems unmindful of the rights of reason; the rights of faith have been unrecognized by others. The human spirit is a cripple walking on two crutches: science and religion. False philosophy has taken away its religion and fanaticism has snatched away its science. What can it do? It can only fall heavily to the ground, and drag itself along legless between the blasphemies of Proudhon and the blunders of the Syllabus.

The madness of unbelief is no match for the frenzy of fanaticism, because it is ridiculous. Fanaticism is an exaggerated affirmation and unbelief an equally exaggerated negation, but most laughably so. For what is really the exaggeration of nothing? Much less than nothing! Hardly a matter for breaking lances over.

Thus impotence and discouragement on the one hand, and persistence and encroachment on the other, cause us to sink under the heavy weight of blind beliefs and of the interests which exploit them. The old world we thought was dead stands up again in front of us and the revolution has to begin all over again.

All this could have been written down - all this was written down in the law of equilibrium; all this has been predicted, and one could easily go on to predict what will happen next.

The revolutionary spirit is now agitating and tormenting those nations which have remained absolutely Catholic: Italy, Spain and Ireland; and the Catholic reaction, in the sense of exaggeration and despotism, hovers over the nations tired of revolutions. While this is going on, Protestant Germany grows greater and places a formidable temporal power at the service of liberty of conscience and independence of thought.

France puts its Voltairian sword at the disposal of clerical reaction, and so encourages the development of materialism. Religion is being turned into a policy and an industry. The best minds are deserting her and taking refuge in science; but, as it goes deeper into the analysis of matter, science will end up by finding God and will compel religion to come to her. The theological absurdities of the Middle Ages will become so obviously impossible, that it will be thought foolish even to contend against them. At that time, the letter will give place to the spirit and the great universal religion will be known by the world for the first time.

No divination of the future is involved in predicting this great movement, for it has already begun and its effects are already manifesting themselves in its causes. Every day new discoveries are throwing light on the obscure texts of Genesis and vindicate the old fathers of the Qabalah. Camille Flammarion has already shown us God in the Universe; those voices which condemned Galileo have been reduced to silence long since, and nature which suffered calumny for such a length of time now justifies herself as we get to know her better. Vanini's piece of straw knew more about the existence of God than all the schoolmen, and the blasphemers of yesterday are the prophets of tomorrow.

That other creations may have preceded our own, that the days of Genesis may be periods of years or even periods of centuries, that the sun arrested in its course by Joshua may be part of a piece of oriental poetic imagery, that things which would be absurd as history may be interpreted as allegories, does not in any way harm the majesty of the Bible or contradict its authority at all.

Everything in this holy book which is doctrinal or moral comes under the jurisdiction of the Church; but all matters of archaeology, chronology, physics or history etc., belong exclusively to science, of which the authority in such things is completely distinct from, if not independent of, that pertaining to faith.

This has already been recognised by the most enlightened priests, although they have not dared to say so openly; and they are right to keep Silent. One would not wish the leaders of the caravan to march more quickly than the old people and little children. Those who were too encumbered to push themselves to the front would Soon be left behind and would perish in their isolation, as happened to Lamennais and to so many others. It is essential to be well briefed on the route back to the camp, and to be always ready to return at the least alarm, to avoid being charged with negligence when scouting ahead.

After the advent of the Messianic age, that is to say when the reign of Christ has been set up on earth, wars will cease, because politics will no longer consist of the double-dealing of the most artful or the bullying tactics of the strongest. Indeed, there will be one international law, for international obligation will be universally proclaimed and recognised. Then, and then only, shall Christ's prediction come to pass: 'There shall be one fold and One Shepherd.'

If all the Protestant sects were to join together and rally to the Greek Orthodox Church, acknowledging as pope the spiritual head whose see would be at Constantinople. there would be two Roman Catholic Churches in the world; because Constantinople was once, and will yet again be, the new Rome. Schism would then only have a very short life. A truly oecumenical council, made up of deputies from the whole Christian world, would put an end to disagreement as was done once before at the time of the Council of Constance. And the world would be amazed to find itself entirely Catholic; but this time with that liberty of conscience which has been won by the Protestants, and the right to an independent ethic demanded by the philosophers: nobody being obliged under legal penalties to use the remedies of religion, and nobody being allowed to deny the grandeurs of the faith or to insult science, which is the foundation of philosophy, as is no less reasonable.

That is what the philosophy of wisdom, of which Paracelsus spoke, clearly shows us for the future; and we have had little trouble in reaching this divination by a series of deductions which start from actual facts which are happening under our eyes.

These things will occur sooner or later and it will be the triumph of order; but the march of events which will lead up to them can be held up by sanguinary catastrophes ceaselessly prepared and fomented by the revolutionary spirit. This spirit is often inspired by a fierce thirst for justice and is capable of the utmost heroism and devotion, but it is always deceived, debased and set off course by the magnetism of evil.

Besides, if one is to believe the prophetic tradition, perfect order will not rule the earth before the last judgement, that is to say before the transformation and renovation of our planet. Faulty or fallen men are the enemies of truth and incapable of any other motive, for the most part. They are separated by their vanity and greed, always separated; and according to the prophets from apostolic times to the present day, justice will not reign perfectly on the earth until the wicked have either been converted or suppressed, and Christ, accompanied by His angels and saints, descends from Heaven to be king.

There are causes which human wisdom cannot foresee, which give rise to vast events.

The invention of a new gun alters the balance of power in Europe, and Mr Thiers, that clever but unprincipled man, considering that politics consists of loading the dice, joined forces with Veuillot on the cart of Juggernaut, in what could be called the temporal papacy. Did Jesus foresee all this? Yes, perhaps during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and certainly afterwards when he made this terrible prediction to Saint Peter: 'Those who take the sword must perish by the sword.'

Possibly it will take a martyr pope to re-establish a truly Christian papacy in the legitimate exercise of its double power! Count Joseph de Maistre said that torture makes supplication, and when the earth has been parched by the arid breath of irreligion it will call for showers of blood.

The blood of the guilty is purified when it is shed, because Jesus, in allowing Himself to be hanged on the cross, sanctified all the instruments of torture; but only the blood of the just has an expiatory virtue.

The blood of Louis XVI and of Lady Elisabeth prayed in advance that supreme justice would not ignore that of Robespierre.

Divination of the future by wisdom and induction may be termed prescience. Divination by second sight or by magnetic intuition is nothing more than a presentiment. The presentimental faculty may be heightened by inducing in oneself a kind of trance with the aid of certain conventional or arbitrary signs, which immerse the train of thought into a half-waking state. These signs are drawn by lot, because it is the oracles of fate rather than those of reason which are then consulted. This is an invocation to darkness, an appeal to insanity, the sacrifice of lucid thought to the nameless entity which goes prowling in the night.

Divination, as its name indicates, is above all else a divine work, and perfect prescience can only be attributed to God. It is for this reason that men of God are naturally prophets. The good and upright man thinks and acts in union with the divinity which dwells within us all and is always speaking to us; but for most of us the clamour of our passions prevents us from hearing His voice.

The just, having brought peace to their souls, always hear this sovereign and peaceable voice, their thoughts are like a pure and level sheet of water in which the divine sun is reflected in all its splendour.

The souls of the saints are like detectors of purity; they quiver at the least irreverent contact and turn with horror from everything unclean. They have a special gift for discerning and analysing in some way the emanations from people's consciences. The malevolent make them ill at ease and the ungodly make them sad. They can see a black aura around the wicked which repels them, and a bright one around good souls which wins their heart at once. That is how Saint Germain d'Auxerre read the character of Saint Geneviève. That is how Postel found renewed youth in the society of Mother Jeanne. That is how Fénelon came to know and love the gentle, patient Madam Guyon. Vianney, the worthy parish priest of Ars, saw through the stratagems of those who approached him and it was impossible to lie to him with any success. We know that he subjected the shepherd-lads of la Salette to a severe interrogation and made them confess that they had seen nothing out-of-the-way but had entertained themselves by adapting and enlarging on an ordinary dream. There is also a type of divination which belongs to rapture and great inflamed passions.

These powers of the mind seem to create the thing they announce. Theirs is the efficacy of prayer. They say, Amen! So be it! and it is just as they have willed.

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