The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled

by Éliphas Lévi

Eliphas Levi

Book Three

Chapter XVThe Great Arcanum

The great arcanum, the inexpressible arcanum, the dangerous arcanum, the incomprehensible arcanum may be definitively formulated thus:

The divinity of man.

It is inexpressible because as soon as one tries to put it into words it becomes a lie and the most monstrous lie of all.

In fact, man is not God. And yet the most audacious, the most obscure and at the same time the most splendid of religions asks us to worship the man-God.

Jesus Christ, whom she declares to be truly man, wholly man, finite man and a mortal man like us is at the same time completely God, and theology dares to talk in paradoxes. It speaks of worship addressed to the flesh, of the eternity of one who dies, of the impassibility of one who suffers, of the immensity of one who transfigures himself, of the finite taking the virtuality of the infinite, in a word of the God-man who offers to make all men God.

The serpent promised: 'Eritis sicut dii' ('You will be as gods'). Jesus Christ, bruising the serpent's head under the charming foot of His Mother, dared to say: 'Eritis non sicut dii, non sicut Deus, sed eritis Deus!' ('You will be not "as gods", not "as God", but you will be God!')

You will be God, for God is my Father, my Father and I are one and I intend that you and I shall be one: 'ut omnes unum sint sicut ego et pater unum sumus.' ('That you all may be one as I and my Father are one').

I have grown old and grey poring over the least known and most formidable books on occultism; my hair has fallen out; my beard has grown as long as those of the desert fathers; I have sought and found the key to the symbols of Zoroaster; I have entered the crypts of the Manes; I have come upon the secret of Hermes unawares while neglecting to keep clear of a corner of the veil which eternally conceals the great work; I know the nature of that colossal sphinx which sinks slowly into the sand as it contemplates the pyramids; I have penetrated the enigmas of the Brahmins; I know what mysteries Simeon Ben Jochai buried with him during twelve years in the desert; the lost clavicules of Solomon have appeared to me resplendent with light and I have read fluently in the books which Mephistopheles himself was unable to translate for Faust.

Nevertheless, nowhere, neither in Persia, nor in India, nor among the palimpsests of ancient Egypt, nor in the forbidden grimoires salvaged from the bonfires of the Middle Ages, have I found a book so profound, more revealing, more luminous in its mysteries, more frightening in its splendid revelations, more sure in its prophecies, more searching into the depths of man and the immense shadow of God, more grand, more true, more simple, more terrible and more sweet than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What book has been more read, more admired, more slandered, more travestied, more glorified, more wrested and more ignored than that one! It is like honey in the mouth of the wise and like strong poison in the belly of the world. The Revolution was organized to fight it. Proudhon writhed as he tried to spew it out. It is as invincible as truth and as elusive as error.

What a blasphemy it would be to Israel to say that God is a man, and what folly it would be to you Christians! What an abominable paradox it would be to say that man can make himself God! Crucify the profaner of the arcanum, burn the initiators, Christianos ad leonem! (Christians to the lions!)

The Christians made use of the lions and the entire world, conquered by the martyr to the darkness of the great arcanum, found itself groping like Oedipus before the solution of the final problem, that of the man-God.

The man-God is a truth, the cry went up, but he must be as unique on earth as he is in Heaven. The man-God, infallible, almighty, is the pope; and at the bottom of this proclamation which has been written and repeated under all forms, one can read such names as Alexander Borgia.

The man-God is liberated man, the Reformation said next: and that cry, which people hoped they could stuff down the Protestants' throats, ended up as the roar of the Revolution. The terrible word of the enigma was pronounced, but it became more enigmatic than before.

'What is truth?' asked Pilate in condemning Jesus Christ.

'What is liberty?' ask our modern Pilates as they wash their hands in the blood of the nations.

Ask the revolutionaries from Mirabeau to Garibaldi what liberty is, and they will never reach agreement.

For Robespierre and Marat, it is a chopper adjusted at a certain level; for Garibaldi it is a red shirt and a sabre.

For ideologists it is a declaration of the rights of man.

But what man are we talking about?

Is the convict suppressed because society chains him up? Has a man rights because he is a man or only when he behaves himself?

For the profane masses, liberty is the absolute assertion of their rights; rights which always seem to involve restrictions and servitude. If liberty is simply the right to do good, it is being confused with duty and can hardly be distinguished from virtue.

Everything which the world has seen and tried up to now has failed to solve the problem posed by magic and by the Gospel: the great arcanum of the man-God.

The man-God has neither rights nor duties, he has knowledge, will and power.

He is more than free, he is a master. He does not issue orders, he causes to be done. He does not obey, for none can command him. That which others call duty, he terms his good pleasure. He does good because he wishes to do it and could do no other. He freely co-operates with everything that is just, and for him sacrifice is the luxury of a moral life and magnificence of soul. He is implacable towards evil because he is without hatred for the wicked. He looks on corrective punishment as a benefit and does not understand the meaning of vengeance.

Such is the man who has succeeded in reaching the central point of balance and one can, without blasphemy or folly, call him the man-God, because his soul is identified with the eternal principle of truth and justice.

The liberty of the perfect man is the divine law itself; it soars above all human laws and all the conventional obligations of the religious systems. The law is made for man, said Christ, and not man for the law. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath; that is to say, the requirement to keep the Sabbath, imposed by Moses under pain of death, only binds man in so far as it is useful to him, for in the final analysis man is the sovereign master. 'All is permissible for me,' said Saint Paul, 'but not everything is expedient', by which he meant that we have the right to do anything which harms neither ourselves nor others and that our freedom is only restricted by the warnings of our conscience and our reason.

The wise man never has any scruples; he behaves with common sense and only does what he wants to do; so in his own sphere he can do everything and is blameless. Qui natus est ex Deo non peccat (He who is born of God does not sin), says Saint Paul, because his errors being involuntary, cannot be imputed to him.

It is towards this sovereign independence that the human soul must advance through the difficulties of progress. This is veritably the great arcanum of occultism, because it is thus that the mysterious promise of the serpent is realized: 'You will be as gods knowing good and evil.'

This is how the serpent of Eden is transfigured and becomes the serpent of brass to heal all the wounds of humanity. Jesus Christ Himself has been compared to this serpent by the Church fathers because, said they, He has taken the form of sin to change the abundance of iniquity into the superabundance of justice.

We have spoken plainly here and have revealed the truth without veils, and yet we are not afraid that anyone can rightly accuse us of being someone who makes rash disclosures. Those who ought not to understand these pages will not understand them; for to a sight which is too weak, truth, when shown in all its nakedness, appears veiled in its own light and concealed beneath its own brilliant splendour.

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