The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Three

Chapter IXPerpetual Motion

Perpetual motion is the eternal law of life. Like human respiration, it manifests everywhere in attraction and repulsion. Every action provokes a reaction; every reaction is proportional to the action which provoked it. A harmonious action produces its harmonious counterpart. A discordant action necessitates a reaction which will look ill- regulated but will be, in reality, a balancing one. If you fight violence with violence, you will perpetuate violence; but if you oppose it with the strength of meekness, you will enable meekness to triumph and violence will be broken. Some truths seem to be opposed to one another, because perpetual motion causes them to triumph in turn again and again. The day exists and the night exists too; they exist simultaneously but not in the same half of the globe. There are shadows by day and twinkling lights at night, and the daytime shadows make the day sparkle while the glimmering at night seems to intensify its blackness. Hence visible day and visible night are such to our eyes alone. The eternal light is invisible to mortal eyes and fills infinity. Truth is the day of souls, and their night is falsehood. All truth implies and necessitates a falsehood because forms are limited, and all falsehood implies and necessitates a truth in the rectification of the finite by the infinite. All falsehood contains a certain truth which is the accuracy of its form, and for us all truth is enveloped in some falsehood where its semblance ends. Thus is it true or even probable that there exists a tremendous individual or three individuals in one, who is invisible and rewards those who serve him by revealing himself to them, is present everywhere -- even in hell -- where he tortures the damned by hiding himself from them, desires the salvation of all and only bestows enabling grace on a very small number, and imposes a terrible law on all while allowing everything to cast doubt on its promulgation - is there such a God? No, no, and surely no, the existence of God as affirmed under this form is a truth in disguise and completely shrouded in misconceptions. Must we accept that all things have been and all things will be, that eternal matter is self-sufficient, being determined in its form by perpetual motion, so that everything is force and matter, the soul is non-existent, thought is only a product of the brain and God is nothing more than the determinism of existence? No, indeed, for this absolute denial of intelligence would even contradict animal instinct. It is clear that the contrary affirmation necessitates belief in God. Does this God reveal Himself outside nature in a personal way to men, on whom He imposes ideas which are contrary to nature and reason? Of course not, because the fact of this revelation - if it existed - would be evident to everyone; and furthermore, even if the fact of an external revelation coming from an unknown being were an incontestable reality, if this being showed that he was in opposition to reason and nature which come from God, he could not be God. Moses, Mohammed, the Pope and the Dalai Lama each say that God has spoken to them to the exclusion of the others and has informed them that the others are liars. - So perhaps they are all liars? - No, but they deceive themselves when they act divisively and say true when they agree. - But has God spoken to them or has He not? God has no mouth or tongue to speak irr the manner of men. If He speaks it is in our consciences and we can always hear His voice. He it is who confirms in our hearts the words of Jesus, the wise words we find in Moses and the fine words we find in Mohammed. God is not far from every one of us, says Saint Paul, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Blessed are the pure in heart, says Christ, for they shall see God. Now, to see God, who is invisible, is to feel Him in our conscience and to hear Him speaking in our heart. The God of Hermes, of Pythagoras, of Orpheus, of Socrates, of Moses and of Jesus Christ was one and the same God and spoke to them all. Cleanthes the Lycon was inspired like David, and the Krishna legend is as beautiful as the Gospel of Saint Matthew. There are admirable pages in the Koran; but there are stupid and hideous things in the theology of every cult. The God of the Qabalah, of Moses and of Job, the God of Jesus Christ, of Origen and Synesius cannot be the God of the autos-da-fé. The mysteries of Christianity as understood by Saint John the Evangelist and the learned fathers of the Church, are sublime; but the same mysteries when explained, or rather rendered inexplicable by people like Garassus, Escobar and Veuillot, are absurd and degraded. Catholic worship is splendid or despicable according to the priests or churches concerned. Hence one may say with equal correctness that the dogma is true and is false, that God has spoken and that He has definitely not spoken, that the Church is infallible and that she is in a constant state of error, that she destroys slavery and conspires against liberty, that she elevates man and brutalizes him. Admirable believers can be found among atheists so-called, and atheists among those who profess to be believers. What is the way out of these flagrant contradictions? It is to remember that the day has its shadows and the night its brilliant lights, and to pick out the good which is often found in evil and to avoid the evil which can mingle with the good. Pope Pius IX published, under the name of the Syllabus, a series of propositions which he condemned, and most of them appear to be incontestably true from the point of view of science and reason. However, each of these propositions contains and conceals a false sense which is rightly condemned. Does this mean that we have to renounce what is, on the face of it, their true and natural meaning? When authority plays hide-and-seek, he who wants to do so may go looking for it; for our own part we shall not bother to recognize it until it shows itself. The intelligent bishop of Orleans, the bellicose Right Revd. Dupanloup, has proved — by setting the Pope's own words against one another — that the Syllabus does not, and indeed cannot, mean what it seems to say. If it is a word-puzzle, we, who have not been initiated into the profundities of the court of Rome, must beg to be excused. How many great truths lie hidden under dogmatic formulas which look very obscure or even completely ridiculous? Do my readers want examples? If one were to tell a Chinese philosopher that Europeans worship as the supreme God of the Universe a Jew who had been put to death by torture, one whom they resuscitate every day, so they think, in order to eat his flesh and bone under the outward appearance of a small wafer, would not the disciple of Confucius have some trouble in believing that nations which, in his eyes it is true, are barbarians but, when all is said and done, not total savages, could be capable of such enormities; and if one went on to say that this Jew was born to a woman who remained materially and physically virgin before and during her confinement, while a Spirit who is the same God as the Jew brooded over them in the form of a dove, would not his astonishment and scorn turn to disgust? But if, detaining him by his sleeve, one cried in his ear that the Jew who is God came into the world to die in torment to appease His Father, the God of the Jews (who found that He was not as good a Jew as they would like), and that the Jews' God abolished Judaism on account of His Son's death although He Himself had sworn it would be eternal, would he not become extremely angry? Any dogma, if it is to be true, must hide beneath an enigmatic form a sense which is eminently reasonable. It must have two faces like the divine head of the Zohar: one of light and the other of darkness. If the Christian doctrine as spiritually expounded, was not acceptable to a pious and educated Israelite, it would be necessary to say that this doctrine is false, and there is a simple reason for this: at the epoch when Christianity appeared in the world, Judaism was the true religion, and God Himself rejected, and had to reject everything which was not admitted by this religion. Therefore it is impossible for us to worship a man or anything whatever. We must cling, above all else, to the theism and pure spirituality of Moses. Our interchange of language is not a confusion of the nature of things: we worship God in Jesus Christ, not Jesus Christ in the place of God. We believe that God revealed Himself in humanity itself, that He is in us in the Spirit of the Saviour, who is the spirit of love, the spirit of piety, the spirit of intelligence, the spirit of knowledge and good counsel; and I see nothing which resembles a blind fantasy in all this. Our doctrines of the Incarnation, of the Trinity and of Redemption are as old as the world and spring even from that hidden doctrine which Mosaism reserved for its doctors of the law and its priests. The Tree of the Sephiroth is an admirable exposition of the mystery of the Trinity. The fall of Adam Kadmon, that gigantic conception of the whole of fallen humanity, demands a Restorer who is not less wonderful, the Messiah no less; and yet one who will reveal Himself with the meekness of a little child; able to play with the lions or call to His side the fledglings of the dove. Christianity, properly understood, is Judaism at its most perfect, minus circumcision and the rabbinic observances, and plus faith, hope and charity in marvellous communion. Today's students take it for granted that the Egyptian sages did not worship dogs or cats or vegetables. The secret doctrine of the initiates was precisely the same as that of Moses or Orpheus. One universal God, as immutable as the law, as bountiful as life, revealed in the whole of nature, thinking in all intelligences, loving in all hearts, the cause and principle of being and of beings without merging with them, invisible, and beyond all thought, but certainly there because nothing could exist without Him. Since they cannot see Him, men have dreamt of Him, and the diversity of gods is nothing more than the diversity of their dreams. If your dream is not like my dream, say the priests of different cults, you will be eternally damned. Do not reason as they do; let us await the hour of reveille. One could publish a fine book under a title already used by Michelet. It would be a harmony of the Bible, the Puranas, the Vedas, the books of Hermes, the Homeric Hymns, the maxims of Confucius, the Koran of Mohammed and even of the Scandinavian Eddas. This compilation, which would certainly be catholic, would be entitled to the name The Bible of Humanity; instead of doing this work, this rather too florid and stylish old man merely showed what could be done and lightly sketched the preface. In essence, religion has never changed, but every age and every nation has its prejudices and errors. During the first centuries of Christianity people were anticipating the end of the world and disdained anything which might add comfort to life. In the face of dreams of Heaven, the sciences, the arts, patriotism, love of family, all fell into oblivion. Some ran to martyrdom, others to the desert, and the empire collapsed in ruins. Then along came the folly of theological disputes, and the Christians cut one another's throats over words which they did not understand. In the Middle Ages, the simplicity of the Gospels gave place to the quibbles of the schools, and superstitions swarmed everywhere. At the Renaissance, materialism reappeared, the great principle of unity was disregarded and Protestantism sowed freakish churches in the world. The Catholics were without pity and the Protestants were unrelenting. Then along came gloomy Jansenism with its ghastly doctrines of the God who saves and damns by caprice; the cult of melancholy and death. After that the Revolution imposed liberty by terror, equality by the stroke of the axe and fraternity in bloodshed. There was a dastardly and perfidious reaction. Those interests which were threatened put on the mask of religion and the strongbox made common cause with the Cross. This is the situation as we find it today. The Zouaves have replaced the guardian angels of the sanctuary and the Kingdom of God, which suffers violence in Heaven, resists violence on earth, no longer with unworldliness and prayers, but with cash and bayonets. Jews and Protestants swell Peter's Pence. Religion is no longer a matter of faith, it is a partisan affair. It is evident that Christianity has not yet been understood and that at last it is claiming its place; this is why everything breaks down and indeed will break down as long as it is not established in all its truth and in all its power to settle the world situation into a state of balance. So the unrest we are experiencing is not being deliberately stirred up; it results from the perpetual motion which upsets everything which men try to oppose to its laws of eternal balance. The laws which govern the world are also sovereign over each individual human destiny: man is intended to be restful without being idle. His restfulness consists in knowing his proper state of balance; at the same time he cannot renounce perpetual motion, because movement is life. One must either submit to it or direct it. To submit to it is to be broken by it, to direct it is to be regenerated by it. There must be an equilibrium between spirit and body, not an antagonism. The insatiable thirsts of the soul can be as baleful as the disordered appetites of the flesh. Lust is inflamed rather than assuaged by senseless privations. Bodily afflictions render the soul sad and impotent and she is not truly queen unless the organs, her subjects, are perfectly unconstrained and satisfied. There is a balance and not an antagonism between grace and nature, for grace is the direction which God Himself has given to nature. It is by the grace of the Most High that the springs blossom, the summers come with fields of corn, and the autumns bear clusters of grapes. Why ever should we despise the flowers which charm our senses, the bread which sustains us, and the wine which invigorates us? Christ taught to pray to God to give us this day our daily bread. Let us also pray for the roses of each spring and the leafy shade of every summer. At the very least, let us ask Him for real affection in every heart, and an honest and sincere love for every creature. There is a balance, in which antagonism must never interfere, between the man and the woman. Mutual devotion is the law of union which binds them. The woman must captivate the man by her charm, and the man must emancipate the woman by his intelligence. If the woman is humiliated by the man, the man will be degraded by the woman. Buy a woman’s favours and she will overcharge and ruin you. Turn her into a creature of flesh and filth and she wi11 corrupt and defile you. There is a balance, and not the slightest possibility of any real antagonism, between order and liberty, between obedience and human dignity. Nobody has a right to arbitrary and despotic power. No, nobody, not even God. Nobody is the absolute master of anybody else. Even the shepherd is not the master of his dog to this extent. Protection is the law of the world of mind; those who must obey only obey for their own good; their will is guided but not subjugated; a person may enlist his will but never part with it. To be king is to dedicate oneself to protecting one’s royal rights against those of the people, and the more powerful the king is the more truly free the people are. For liberty without discipline and without protection is the worst of servitudes. It degenerates into anarchy, which is the tyranny of all in the conflict of factions. True social liberty is the absolutism of justice. Human life alternates; Turn and turn about it wakes and then drowses, immersed by sleep in the collective and universal life; it dreams of its persona1 existence without any awareness of time and space. On its return to individual and responsible life, it dreams in the waking state of its collective and eternal existence. A dream is one of those glimmers in the night. A belief in religious mysteries is one of those shadows which appear in the depth of the day. It is likely that, for man, eternity alternates like his life, being composed of periods of waking and sleeping. He dreams when he fancies himself to be living in the kingdom of the dead; he is awake when he resumes his immortality and remembers his dreams. Genesis informs us that God cast Adam into a deep sleep and that while the man slept He drew from him the Chavah to give him a helper who was like him — and Adam exclaimed: 'This is now flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.' We are not forgetting that in the preceding chapter, the author of the sacred book has declared that Adam had been created male and female: clearly showing that Adam is not an isolated individual but is taken for humanity in its entirety. So what is this Chevah or Eve who comes out of him during his sleep to be his helper and who later will consecrate him to death? Surely, it is the same as the Maya of the Hindus, the corporeal receptacle, the terrestrial form which is the spirit’s helper, similar to the spirit’s own form but separated from it? When the spirit awakes from that earthly form, we call it death. When the spirit sleeps after a day spent in the universal life, it gives rise to the chavah of itself; It wraps itself in its chrysalis and its periods of existence in time are only like dreams in which it rests from its labours in eternity. Thus he ascends the ladder of the worlds, but only during his sleep. During his eternity he is able to enjoy all his fresh acquisitions of knowledge and power gained in union with Maya, whom he must use without becoming her slave. For Maya triumphant will throw around his soul a veil he cannot rend on waking, and once he has fondled that succubus he will be liable to wake up mad; and this is the veritable mystery of life eternal. There are no more pitiable creatures than the mad, and yet, for the most part, they are unaware of their appalling misfortune. Swedenborg went so far as to say something which, dangerous though it may be, is not the less touching for that in our opinion. He said that the damned take the horrors of hell for beauties, its darkness for light and its torments for pleasures. They are like those condemned to death in some Eastern countries, who are stupefied with narcotics before being handed over to the torturers. God cannot set aside the penalties attached to the violations of His law, but He considers that eternal death is bad enough without the addition of pain. Although unable to stop the furies as each draws her whip, He makes sure that those to be flogged are insensible. We ourselves do not agree with Swedenborg’s conception, because the only thing we believe in is everlasting life. His insane and hallucinated company of the damned, revelling in vile shadows and gathering poisonous toadstools in mistake for flowers, are punished for no useful reason as far as we can see, because they have no consciousness of their punishment. His hell, which would be a kind of lunatic asylum. is less noble than that of Dante: a circular abyss, continuously narrowing in its descent, and ending, behind the three heads of the symbolic serpent, in a strait way on which one need only turn round to climb back towards the light. Eternal life is perpetual motion and, for us, eternity has no other meaning than the infinity of time. Imagine for a moment that heavenly bliss consisted in saying Hallelujah, with palms in our hands and crowns on our heads, and that after five hundred million Hallelujahs we had always to start all over again (appalling bliss!), this would mean that a number could be assigned to each Hallelujah; it would have a predecessor and a successor, and succession entails duration, or time in other words — time, because there would be a beginning. Eternity, however, has neither beginning nor end. One thing is certain, and that is that we know absolutely nothing about the mysteries of the other life; but it is also certain that none of us recollects having started from nothing and that the idea of future non-existence imposes an equal strain on our intuition and our reason. Jesus tells us that the just will go to Heaven, and calls Heaven His Father's House. He assures us that in this House are many Mansions. We would hazard a guess that these Mansions are the stars. So the idea, or theory if you will, of renewed existence in the stars may not be altogether out of keeping with the teaching of Jesus Christ. Dream life is essentially different from real life; it has its scenery. its friends and its memories; and in that life one possesses without doubt faculties belonging to other forms and other worlds. One meets again loved beings whom one has never known on this earth; those who are dead are seen alive again; one is carried along in the air; one walks on water as if the action of body weight were less; one speaks unknown languages and makes contact with creatures who are very oddly organized. Everything there is reminiscent of so much that has nothing to do with this world; might these not be vague recollections of previous existences? Do dreams spring from the brain alone? Well, if the brain produces them, who invents them? Often they terrify and tire us. What Callot or Goya invents our nightmares? In our dreams, we frequently imagine we have committed crimes, and we are relieved to be free from blame when the hour of waking comes. Could the same thing be true of our veiled existence, our dreams beneath a covering of flesh? Did Nero wake up with a start and cry: ‘Praise God! I have not had my mother assassinated.’? Did he find her living and smiling beside him, ready to tell him in her turn, her imaginary crimes and evil dreams? Our present life often seems like a monstrous dream, and is scarcely any more rational than the visions of sleep. One frequently finds in it things which cannot be, and the things which should be there are not. It looks to us sometimes as if nature is acting crazily and reason is arguing with itself under a frightful Ephiast. The things which happen in this life of illusions and vain hopes are doubtless as foolish in comparison with life eternal as the visions of a dream in comparison with the realities of waking life. On waking, we do not blame ourselves for sins committed in our dreams, and, if they are crimes, society does not call us to account, if they have been committed while in a state of trance; as when, for example, a man in a trance gives his wife a mortal blow while dreaming that he is killing her. In some such way as this, our earthly errors may have their repercussions in Heaven on account of a special exaltation by which man enters eternity before he has left the earth. Some of the acts done in our present life can disturb the regions of perennial serenity. There are sins which, in the common phrase, make the angels weep. Such are the unjust aspersions of the saints, the calumnies to which they expose the Supreme Being when they represent him as the capricious despot of spirits and the infinite tormentor of souls. When Saint Dominic and Saint Pius V tortured dissident Christians, these martyred Christians having been readmitted by virtue of their shed blood into the great catholic assembly of Heaven, were no doubt welcomed into the ranks of the blessed spirits with cries of amazement and pity, and the terrible sleep-walkers of the inquisition would not have been excused when pleading, before the supreme Judge, that they had been raving in their sleep. Perverting the human conscience, quenching the spirit and slandering reason, persecuting the wise and opposing the progress of knowledge, these are the real mortal sins, sins against the Holy Spirit which can never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come.

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