Paradoxes of the Highest Science
by Éliphas Lévi
Knowledge is the Ignorance or
Negation of Evil
"FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do," said Christ, in praying for his executioners.
Thus speaking, he was pleading the cause of all Humanity. All men deceive themselves because "they know not," and no man knows what he does when he does evil. How could a rational being with a perfect discernment do evil?41:1 Does any one voluntarily take poisons for perfumes, gall for honey, hemlock for parsley, or arsenic for salt?
Ignorance is the cause of all errors, of all crimes and of all the evils that torment the Human Race.
It was ignorance that invented capricious and angry Gods; it was this that foisted on God the worst passions of man; it was this that constructed out of the intelligent principle of things a personality, distinct, defined and infinite, thus confounding together the most contradictory conceptions; for the moment a personality becomes defined and distinct, it ceases to be possible to conceive it as infinite.
It is through Ignorance that men have insisted on constraining each other now to submit to a Faith without Reason, now to lean upon Reason without Faith, mutually persecuting each other, to recoil in turn to the two poles of Folly.
It is through Ignorance of the Laws of Nature that men have believed in the sun being arrested in its course, in asses speaking, in the jaw bones of an ass transforming themselves into fountains, and in a whole world of absurdities and chimeras.
It is Ignorance that makes Trimalchio burst at table, and St. Anthony go mad in the desert, man ever craving to plunge into vices or scale the heights to virtues disproportioned to his being.
It is through Ignorance that Tiberius, at Capri, inflicted on himself sensual gratifications more horrible than tortures, and felt himself die a thousand times daily in the disgust of his power, and the agony of his pleasures.
The Ignorant have poisoned Socrates, crucified Jesus Christ, tortured the martyrs, burnt the heretics, massacred the priests, have overthrown and re-erected alternately the most monstrous idols, have preached, some tyranny, others license, have denied, some all authority, others liberty, and all have ignored Reason, Truth and justice.
It is through Ignorance that a man is proud since he then fancies to make himself honoured by rendering himself ridiculous and contemptible.
It is through Ignorance that a man is avaricious since he thus makes himself the slave of what is made to serve us. It is through Ignorance that a man becomes a debauchee, since he thus makes a deadly abuse of what should relate to and propagate Life.
Through Ignorance men mutually hate in lieu of loving, isolate themselves instead of helping one the other, separate instead of associating, corrupt instead of improving each other, destroy in place of preserving and weaken themselves in egoism in lieu of strengthening themselves in universal charity.
Man naturally seeks that which he believes to be good, and if he almost always deceives himself, foolishly and cruelly, it is that he does not know. The Despots of the old world did not know that the abuse of Power involves the fall of Power, and that in digging the earth to hide their victims they were digging their own graves. The Revolutionists of all times have not known that anarchy being the conflict of Lusts and the fatal reign of Violence, substitutes might for right, and paves the way ever for the rule of the most audaciously criminal.
The Inquisitors did not know that in the name of the Church they were burning Jesus Christ, that in the name of the Holy Office they were burning the Gospel, and that the ashes of their auto-da-fés would brand indelibly on their foreheads the mark of Cain.
Voltaire, in preaching God and Liberty, did not know that in the narrow minds of the vulgar Liberty destroyed God; he did not know that in the dark foundations of symbols hides a light sublime; that the Bible is a Babel on the summit of which rests the Holy Ark; and he never thought he was preparing the materials for the impious farces of Chaumette and the paradoxes of Proudhon.
Rousseau did not know that amongst the bastard children of his proud and fretful genius he would have one day to reckon Robespierre and Marat.
Paschal but ill knew mathematics since he believed in the Jansenists. When the exactitude of proportions and equilibrium demonstrated to him justness everywhere in the Universe, how could this inconsistent geometer suppose injustice in God?
If the Monks of the Middle Ages had known Physiology and Medicine, they would have known that solitude drives men mad, that night-watches inflame the blood, that fasts deprive the brain of blood, and compulsory celibacy provokes unnatural frenzies.44:1
If Bossuet and Newton had known the Kabala, they would not have explained the Apocalypse without understanding it.
If Napoleon III had known mathematics he would not have attacked Prussia.
No man knowingly deceives himself, and he who flies from Truth does not know what Truth is.
Each one yields to what attracts him most strongly, and the predominance of attraction depends on knowledge.
To live is to suffer; to know how to live is to be happy.
To love is to obey; to know how to love is to rule.
To speak is to make a noise; to know how to speak is to make melody.
To seek is to torment oneself; to know how to seek is to find.
To use is often to abuse; to know how to use is to enjoy.
To practise magic is to be a quack; to know magic is to be a sage.
To believe without knowing is to be a fool; to know without believing is to be a mad titan; true knowledge brings with it faith.45:1
The man who knows has no longer cause to doubt; when the Spirit no longer doubts, the will ceases to hesitate and the man attains to what he wills.
To this question--Why has God created us?" Catholicism replies, "To love, know, and serve him and thus merit eternal Life".
Let us say the same thing in simpler words. We are in the world to love; when we love, we love God, because God only manifests himself to us in Nature, and in Man.
We are in the world to learn, that is to say to know; to learn everything is to know God more and more. The true Theology is the Universal Science.
We are in the world to serve Humanity, which is serving God,46:1 by consecrating to it our free activity.
Thus shall we march on in the Eternal Progress.
No one earns Eternal Life by his merits; this imposes itself on us, and if we do not know how to enjoy it we still have to accept it.
Knowledge is the first power of the intelligent Universe. God is the master of infinite knowledge. He who knows is naturally the master of him who knows not. It is necessary to know, in order to be. He who does not know how to be rich, is not rich; he who does not know how to be good, is not good, Knowledge is proportional to being, and in philosophy, as Kant remarked, being is identical with knowing.
Knowledge alone confers a right of property. We interdict those who do not know how to use their wealth. Abuse springs from an ignorance, more or less voluntary, of how to use. He who knows how to acquire and preserve, has the right to use; no one has the right to abuse.
As a guarantee of the rights of the individual, property is sacred, for it is the expression of the right to labour and constitutes the power to give and to lend which is the dignity of man; but it is limited by social duty, each one owing himself to all, and all to each, in the degrees prescribed by Order, Justice and Law.
To ignore this is to become liable to accept as a Truth Proudhon's paradox, "La propriété cest le vol." Ignorance is the mother of all Revolutions, because she is the cause of all injustice.
When a man knows, he is master of all who do not know; Study is the ladder of merit and of power. First amongst necessary studies is the study of oneself; then comes the study of the exact sciences,47:1 then of Nature, then of History. It is from these preparatory studies that are to be gathered the elements of Philosophy which must be perfected by the Science of Religions.
A Mage could not be ignorant: magic signifies majority, and majority signifies emancipation by knowledge.
The Latin word magister, which means master, is derived, as well as the word magistrate, from the words Magic and Mage.
Magis signifies more, major, more great--in a word magic implies superiority.
It is for this reason that the Christian legend of the Epiphany confounds the Magi (or Mages) with the kings and brings them to the manger of the Saviour of men, guided by the mysterious star of Solomon.48:1
Jesus in his cradle is saluted Prince of the Magi, and they offer him incense of Saba, gold of Ophir and myrrh of Memphis. Because be comes to consecrate anew the fire of Zoroaster, to renovate the symbolic treasures of Hiram, and bind up once more the mutilated form of Osiris with the fillets of Hermes.
The Magi; guided by the star of Sabaism, came to honour the infancy of the Christian initiation, then to elude the violence of Herod they returned homewards by another road. What is that road? It is that of occultism. The powers of this world ignore it, but it is known to the initiated Johannites, Adoniramites, Illuminati and Rosicrucians.48:2
We must know, to will with reason. When we will with reason, it is our right and duty to dare, but when we are not sheltered from perverse and senseless attacks, we must keep silence as to what we dare.
We may, but ought not, always to assert what we know; we ought to be free and avow what we believe, but the Christ did not advise this when he said, "Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend you."
Occult science has, therefore, a reason for its secrecy, and that reason is declared, and as it were sanctioned, by an authority at once human and divine.
Did Jesus himself follow his own precept? The pearls of his doctrine, were they not trampled under foot by the obscene brutes who devoured him, and even still devour him? We shall not answer that question, but at the risk of our repose, of our reputation, and even if needs be our life, we have ever striven, still strive and shall strive to the end, to rescue from the swine's trough the pearls of the Holy Gospel.
The Occult sciences are no more the authorised sciences than is the religion of the initiated that of the common believer.
They move onwards ever, guessing what is not yet defined. They brave not the anathema, but move on heeding it not, for no anathema can reach them.
It is certain that there exist in nature and in man forces which as yet escape the control of the most learned authorities. Magnetism is still a problem that the Academicians will not investigate. The Kabala is unknown to Rabbis of the second Talmud; the name, even, of magic raises a smile on the faces of our professors of Physics, and it is well understood that a man's mind must be deranged who in these days occupies himself with the Hermetic Philosophy.
Trismegistus, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Apollonius, Porphyry, Paracelsus, Trithemus, Pomponavius, Vaneni, Giordano Bruno and so many others, were they all mad?
Count Joseph de Maistre, that fiery Ultramontane, did not believe it; he who recognised the necessity of a new manifestation turned his eyes, against his will, towards the sanctuaries of Occultism.
All Religions and all Sciences connect themselves with one single science, always hidden from the common herd, and transmitted from age to age, from initiate to initiate, beneath the veil of fables and symbols. It preserves for a world yet to come the secrets of a world that has passed away. The Gymnosophists contemplated it on the banks of the Ganges; Zoroaster and Hermes preserved it in the East; Moses transmitted it to the Hebrews; Orpheus revealed its mysteries to Greece; Pythagoras and Plato almost guessed it. It was called the Priestly or Royal Science, because it raised the initiated to the ranks of Kings and Pontiffs; it is portrayed in the Bible by the mysterious personage Melchisedec, the peaceful king and eternal priest, who has neither father nor mother nor genealogy. He stands by himself like Truth.
Christian initiates have said that Christ was the same personage as this Melchisedec, and Jesus himself seems to have adopted this allegory when he says that he existed before Abraham, who hailed him rejoicing to see his light. This science of the Priests and Kings was on this account called the Holy Kingdom, the Kingdom Of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. All cannot reach it; it is accessible only to the élite of intelligences, and it is on this account that, according to the Gospels, few are chosen. This science conceals itself because it is persecuted,51:1 Zoroaster was burnt,51:2 Osiris cut in pieces, Orpheus torn in fragments by the Bacchantes, Phythagoras assassinated, Socrates, Plato's Master, poisoned, the great prophets put to death in diverse ways, Jesus crucified, his apostles doomed to martyrdom; but the doctrine never dies, and though it disappears it must ever return. It is on this account that the Legends, more true than History when we know how to interpret them, tell us that Enoch and Elias are living in Heaven, and will redescend to earth. It is on this account that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that St. John was not to die. These forms of speech are of the essence ofOccultism. They show and yet conceal the Truth. What the initiate says is true, but what the profane understand is a falsehood made for them. Truth is like Liberty and Virtue; she yields not herself, she must be sought and conquered.
It is said that at the death of the Christ the Veil of the Temple was rent. This means that occult science was no longer there; she still lived, but at the foot of the cross of the Master who had passed away. An apostle, he who is represented as always young, became the second son of Mary, and meditated a book of which his Gospel is but a reflection, and which was fated never to he understood by the orthodox Church of the uninitiated. The Apocalypse of St. John is a new veil denser than that of Moses, but enriched with broideries, grand, splendid, hung, to the despair of the usurpers of Priesthood and Kingship, before the sanctuary of the Eternal Truth.
The Apocalypse is entirely unintelligible for the uninitiated, for it is a book of the Kabala.
We have explained in our former works what the Kabala is, and we have indicated for intelligent readers the key of the secrets contained in that sublime volume.
The author of the Apocalypse does not write for simple believers, but for those who know, and he often repeats, "Here is the science, let him who has the knowledge calculate and find the number." His Philosophy is that of the Word, that is to say of the Reason which speaks.
Jesus, like all great Hierophants, had a public and a secret doctrine.53:1 His public doctrine differed only in its morality from Judaism. He preached to all universal philanthropy, and upheld the Law of Moses while combating the brutalising influence of a hypocritical and overweening priesthood. But his secret doctrine he only revealed to his beloved apostle who was to revive it after his death. This doctrine was not new. A great Jew, an initiate, Ezekiel, had sketched it out before St. John. God in Humanity and in Nature, the Universal Church of the just, the progressive enfranchisement of mankind, the assumption of the Woman,55:1 to be loved as Virgin, adored as Mother, the destruction of the despotism of Priests and Kings, the reign of Truth and justice, the union of Science and Faith, the final annihilation of the three hideous phantoms, the Devil, Death and Hell, whom St. John flings down and buries for ever in a lake of fire and brimstone, the definite establishment upon earth of the New Jerusalem, a city which no longer needs temples as it is itself a temple, where no priests or kings are seen because all the inhabitants are Priests and Kings, an ideal but realisable city where Liberty, Equality and Fraternity might reign, a city of the elect, of the just, where the vile multitude will never enter, archetype of human civilisation, Land promised to all but accessible only to the elect, not of privilege but by labour, not by the caprice of an idol but by the justice of God.
Such is the ideal of knowledge.57:1
Footnotes (page number:note number)
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41:1 They may be rare, but occultism knows and the world feels the malice of such unhappy beings.--Trans.
44:1 Nothing of the kind, when the Spirit is naturally stronger than and has mastered Flesh at the start. Besides, there is the will! But with the Spirit half slumbering and the Will but half awake, it is folly to try it at all.--E. O.
45:1 A great Paradox, but also a great truth, when rightly understood.--E. O.
46:1 What a ridiculous supernumerary, such a God before the jury of Sense and Logic. Nevertheless some of the most sensible men loathe the idea of parting with this fiction.--E. O.
Amongst our Fiji fellow subjects, the ships, the judges, the governors and other manifestations of our good Queen are received with respect and love; in her name justice is done between man and man, her name protects all from the assaults of foreign nations; she is only known to them by pictures (more or less fancy portraits) or by the effects accomplished by and in her name, and these Fijians can only serve herby good citizenship, dealing fairly and uprightly with their fellow subjects. Truly a ridiculous supernumerary is the actual Queen Victoria I and yet some of the most sensible Fijians would loathe to part with this fiction, nay--would think a man overhasty who denounced her as a myth.--Trans.
47:1 i.e., Occult Sciences.--E. O.
48:1 In one of the secret books of Merop--a book antedating Christianity, three Magi are shown as seeking the lost wisdom of Zoroaster in order to save mankind from maya,--ignorance. A star appears, a six-pointed star, and leads them to the cave where Zarathushtra's Book of Wisdom is buried.--E. O.
48:2 And other more important sects, associations and fraternities, whose names, even, have never been divulged to the world.--Trans.
51:1 By human ignorance and folly.--E. O.
51:2 I don't know that E. L. has any valid authority for this statement. It is usually stated that he died at a good old age, about 313 B.C., though some authorities speak of his being murdered a year later in the persecution of Arjasp.--Trans.
53:1 But he preached it a century before his birth.--E. O.
[Translator's notes] I may explain that some of the most eminent occultists hold the Gospel Christ to be an ideal, based upon a Jesus who lived a considerable time before anno Domini. This Jesus, Jeshu Ben Panthera, lived from about 120 to 70 B.C., was a pupil of Rabbi Joachim Ben Perachia, his grand uncle, with whom, during the persecution of the Jews by Alexander Jannæus, he fled to Alexandria, and was initiated into the Egyptian mysteries, or magic. On his return to Palestine this Jeshu was charged with, and convicted of, heresy and sorcery (he was unquestionably an adept) and hung on the tree of infamy (the Roman Cross) outside the city of Lud or Lydda.
This man was a historical character, and his life and death are indubitably established. Why they look upon the Gospel Christ as an ideal, based upon the Jesus, is that there is no contemporaneous or nearly contemporaneous record by reliable historians of the Gospel Christ.
The only passage in Josephus referring to Jesus Christ is now admitted on all sides to be a pure forgery. Clearly Josephus never mentioned Christ, whereas had the gospel narratives been correct he must have done so.
Again, "Philo Judæus, the most learned of the historians, contemporaneous to the Jesus of the Gospels, a man whose birth anteceded and whose death succeeded the birth and death of Jesus, respectively by ten or fifteen p. 54 years; who visited Jerusalem from Alexandria several times during his long career, and must have been at Jerusalem shortly after the crucifixion; who, in describing the various religious sects, societies and corporations of Palestine, takes the greatest care to omit none, noticing even the most insignificant, never apparently beard and (certainly never mentions) anything about Christ, the crucifixion or any other of the facts commemorated in the Gospels."
Further, they ask if Christ really lived at the time alleged how is it that absolutely no reference to him is found in the Mishna. "The Mishna was founded by Hillel 40 B.C., and edited and amplified (till about the beginning of the third century of our era) at Tiberias by the sea of Galilee, the very focus of the doings of the Biblical apostles and Christ's miracles. The Mishna contains an unbroken record of all the Heresiarchs and rebels against the authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin, is in short a diary of the doings of the synagogue and a history of the Pharisees, those same men who are accused of having put Jesus to death." How is it possible, it is asked, that if the gospel narratives were true, and the events therein recorded really occurred at the time alleged, no reference whatsoever to these decidedly important (even though the Rabbis believed Jesus to be an impostor) transactions is to be found in this very elaborate chronicle, whose special object it was to record all heresies, schisms and matters generally affecting the orthodox Jewish religion?
It will now be understood what E. O. means when he says Jesus preached a hundred years before his birth.--Trans.
55:1 While the vulgar, the masses, were convinced of the influence of the Two Lights (Mar-oth, lights, Sun and Moon, from Mairo to shine; Maria--the Lord) of Heaven upon the living beings on earth, the initiates knew what these lights were. Osiris and Isis were named Apollo and Diana in the West, and when the Christian Bishops began their work of fitting in and accommodating things to their newly conceived doctrine, they rejected Apollo and Diana, Balder and Freia, and invented Christus and Maria. I. A. H. according to the Kabalists is, I [father] and A. H. [mother] composed of I the male and H the female. Jah is Adam, Evah is Eve, together the doubleman (male and female created he them) of Christ, of Genesis and the Kabala.
"Through a Virgin, the Eva (h), came the death; it was necessary through a Virgin but more from a Virgin that the LIFE should appear," says the wily Cyril. Hiersol. XII, VI.
The Alchemists call akasa the Virgin. All life passes through akasa into earth.
Hence Christ's coming on earth through Mary (Mar) the Virgin.
"Screaming Evoe Bakke (Bacchus), thou alone art worthy of the Virgin."--Æneid VII, 389.
It is on the soil of Asia sprung from the teachings of Oriental initiates that two conceptions werep. 56 evolved that have chiefly determined the Religious convictions of the Christians:
(1) The doctrine of ONE EXISTENCE, Parabrahm, our one Life, which is this primal and sole principle of the universe.
(2) That of LIGHT (akasa with its seven principles) which became the Logos of Christians; for "sound" emanates from akasa.
PRIMAL LIFE manifests itself by its intelligence, Logos or wisdom, seventh principle, considered as the primal male principle. In this stage of the conception, the wisdom is identical with spirit or Purusha, with the Hindu the primal divine male. The Old Testament uses the wisdom, spirit and word as synonymous expressions.
The two existences or lights were called, ages B.C., FATHER and SON.
Sabda, "sound" or "word," is constantly mentioned in our Mimānsa philosophy. Compare with the Greek Logos, the "eternity of sound" a dogma of Mimānsa, relating with us to the eternal verities of the occult truth. With the non-initiated Hindus, the eternity of Sabda shows the eternity of the Vedas.--E. O.
57:1 The "Eternal Wisdom" lia ckakama lia kadama of the Hebrew Kabala unites with the Soul of the Messias: "Sair anpin in truth is the Soul of the Messias joined with the eternal Logos."--Kabala III, 241 Jezira--E. O.