The Key of the Mysteries

(La Clef des Grands Mystères)

Eliphas Levi


"Religion says: — 'Believe and you will understand.' Science comes to say to you: — 'Understand and you will believe.'

"At that moment the whole of science will change front; the spirit, so long dethroned and forgotten, will take its ancient place; it will be demonstrated that the old traditions are all true, that the whole of paganism is only a system of corrupted and misplaced truths, that it is sufficient to cleanse them, so to say, and to put them back again in their place, to see them shine with all their rays. In a word, all ideas will change, and since on all sides a multitude of the elect cry in concert, 'Come, Lord, come!' why should you blame the men who throw themselves forward into that majestic future, and pride themselves on having foreseen it?"
 —  J. De Maistre, Soirées de St. Petersbourg.

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In the biographical and critical essay which Mr. Waite prefixes to his Mysteries of Magic he says: "A word must be added of the method of this digest, which claims to be something more than translation and has been infinitely more laborious. I believe it to be in all respects faithful, and where it has been necessary or possible for it to be literal, there also it is invariably literal."

We agree that it is either more or less than translation, and the following examples selected at hazard in the course of half-an-hour will enable the reader to judge whether Mr. Waite is acquainted with either French or English:

"Gentilhomme" — "Gentleman."

"The nameless vice which was reproached against the Templars."

"Certaines circonstances ridicules et un proces en escroquerie" — "Certain ridiculous processes and a swindling lawsuit."

"Se mêle de dogmatiser" — "Meddles with dogmatism."

"La vie pour lui suffisait à l'expiation des plus grands crimes, puis qu'elle etait la consequence d'un arrêt de mort" — "According to him life was sufficient for the greatest crimes, since these were the result of a death sentence."

"Vos meilleurs amis ont dû concevoir des inquiétudes" — "Your best friends have been reasonably anxious." (The mistranslation here turns the speech into an insult.)

"Sacro-sainte" — "Sacred and saintly."

"Auriculaire" — "Index."

"N'avez vous pas obtenu tout ce que vous demandiez, et plus que vous ne demandiez, car vous ne m'aviez pas parlé d'argent?" — "Have you not had all and more than you wanted, and there has been no question of remuneration?" (This mistranslation makes nonsense of the whole passage.)

"Eliphas n'etait pas a la question" — "Eliphas was not under cross-examination."

"Mauvais plaisant" — "Vicious jester."

"Si vous n'aviez pas … vous deviendriez" — "If you have not … you may become." (This mistranslation turns a compliment into an insult.)

"An awful and ineffaceable tableaux."

"Peripeties" — "Circumstances."

"Il avait fait partie du clerge de Saint Germain l'Auxerrois" — "He was of the Society of St. Germain l'Auxerrois."

"Bruit de tempete" — "Stormy sound."

We are obliged to mention this matter, as Mr. Waite (by persistent self-assertion) has obtained the reputation of being trustworthy as an editor. On the contrary, he not only mutilates and distorts his authors, but, as demonstrated above, he is totally incapable of understanding their simplest phrases and even their commonest words.


This volume represents the high-water mark of the thought of Eliphas Levi. It may be regarded as written by him as his Thesis for the Grade of Exempt Adept, just as his Ritual and Dogma was his Thesis for the grade of a Major Adept. He is, in fact, no longer talking of things as if their sense was fixed and universal. He is beginning to see something of the contradiction inherent in the nature of things, or at any rate, he constantly illustrates the fact that the planes are to be kept separate for practical purposes, although in the final analysis they turn out to be one. This, and the extraordinarily subtle and delicate irony of which Eliphas Levi is one of the greatest masters that has ever lived, have baffled the pedantry and stupidity of such commentators as Waite. English has hardly a word to express the mental condition of such unfortunates. Dummheit, in its strongest German sense, is about the nearest thing to it. It is as if a geographer should criticize Gulliver's Travels from his own particular standpoint.

When Levi says that all that he asserts as an initiate is subordinate to his humble submissiveness as a Christian, and then not only remarks that the Bible and the Qur'an are different translations of the same book, but treats the Incarnation as an allegory, it is evident that a good deal of submission will be required. When he agrees with St. Augustine that a thing is not just because God wills it, but God wills it because it is just, he sees perfectly well that he is reducing God to a poetic image reflected from his own moral ideal of justice, and no amount of alleged orthodoxy can weigh against that statement. His very defence of the Catholic Hierarchy is a masterpiece of that peculiar form of conscious sophistry which justifies itself by reducing its conclusion to zero. One must begin with one, and that one has no particular qualities. Therefore, so long as you have an authority properly centralized it does not really matter what that authority is. In the Pope we have such an authority ready made, and it is the gravest tactical blunder to endeavour to set up an authority opposed to him. Success in doing so means war, and failure anarchy. This, however, did not prevent Levi from ceremonially casting a papal crown to the ground and crying "Death to tyranny and superstition!" in the bosom of a certain secret Areopagus of which he was the most famous member.

When a man becomes a magician he looks about him for a magical weapon; and, being probably endowed with that human frailty called laziness, he hopes to find a weapon ready made. Thus we find the Christian Magus who imposed his power upon the world taking the existing worships and making a single system combining all their merits. There is no single feature in Christianity which has not been taken bodily from the worship of Isis, or of Mithras, or of Bacchus, or of Adonis, or of Osiris. In modern times again we find Frater Iehi Aour trying to handle Buddhism. Others again have attempted to use Freemasonry. There have been even exceptionally foolish magicians who have tried to use a sword long since rusted.

Wagner illustrates this point very clearly in Siegfried. The Great Sword Nothung has been broken, and it is the only weapon that can destroy the gods. The dwarf Mime tries uselessly to mend it. When Siegfried comes he makes no such error. He melts its fragments and forges a new sword. In spite of the intense labour which this costs, it is the best plan to adopt.

Levi completely failed to capture Catholicism; and his hope of using Imperialism, his endeavour to persuade the Emperor that he was the chosen instrument of the Almighty, a belief which would have enabled him to play Maximus to little Napoleon's Julian, was shattered once for all at Sedan.

It is necessary for the reader to gain this clear conception of Levi's inmost mind, if he is to reconcile the "contradictions" which leave Waite petulant and bewildered. It is the sad privilege of the higher order of mind to be able to see both sides of every question, and to appreciate the fact that both are equally tenable. Such contradictions can, of course, only be reconciled on a higher plane, and this method of harmonizing contradictions is, therefore, the best key to the higher planes.

It seems unnecessary to add anything to these few remarks. This is the only difficulty in the whole book, though in one or two passages Levi's extraordinarily keen sense of humour leads him to indulge in a little harmless bombast. We may instance his remarks on the Grimoire of Honorius.

We have said that this is the masterpiece of Levi. He reaches an exaltation of both thought and language which is equal to that of any other writer known to us. Once it is understood that it is purely a thesis for the Grade of Exempt Adept, the reader should have no further difficulty. — A. C.


On the brink of mystery, the spirit of man is seized with giddiness. Mystery is the abyss which ceaselessly attracts our unquiet curiosity by the terror of its depth.

The greatest mystery of the infinite is the existence of Him for whom alone all is without mystery.

Comprehending the infinite which is essentially incomprehensible, He is Himself that infinite and eternally unfathomable mystery; that is to say, that He is, in all seeming, that supreme absurdity in which Tertullian believed.

Necessarily absurd, since reason must renounce for ever the project of attaining to Him; necessarily credible, since science and reason, far from demonstrating that He does not exist, are dragged by the chariot of fatality to believe that He does exist, and to adore Him themselves with closed eyes.

Why? — Because this Absurd is the infinite source of reason. The light springs eternally from the eternal shadows. Science, that Babel Tower of the spirit, may twist and coil its spirals ever ascending as it will; it may make the earth tremble, it will never touch the sky.

God is He whom we shall eternally learn to know better, and, consequently, He whom we shall never know entirely.

The realm of mystery is, then, a field open to the conquests of the intelligence. March there as boldly as you will, never will you diminish its extent; you will only alter its horizons. To know all is an impossible dream; but woe unto him who dares not to learn all, and who does not know that, in order to know anything, one must learn eternally!

They say that in order to learn anything well, one must forget it several times. The world has followed this method. Everything which is to-day debateable had been solved by the ancients. Before our annals began, their solutions, written in hieroglyphs, had already no longer any meaning for us. A man has rediscovered their key; he has opened the cemeteries of ancient science, and he gives to his century a whole world of forgotten theorems, of syntheses as simple and sublime as nature, radiating always from unity, and multiplying themselves like numbers with proportions so exact, that the known demonstrates and reveals the unknown. To understand this science, is to see God. The author of this book, as he finishes his work, will think that he has demonstrated it.

Then, when you have seen God, the hierophant will say to you: — "Turn round!" and, in the shadow which you throw in the presence of this sun of intelligences, there will appear to you the devil, that black phantom which you see when your gaze is not fixed upon God, and when you think that your shadow fills the sky, — for the vapours of the earth, the higher they go, seem to magnify it more and more.

To harmonize in the category of religion science with revelation and reason with faith, to demonstrate in philosophy the absolute principles which reconcile all the antinomies, and finally to reveal the universal equilibrium of natural forces, is the triple object of this work, which will consequently be divided into three parts.

We shall exhibit true religion with such characters, that no one, believer or unbeliever, can fail to recognize it; that will be the absolute in religion. We shall establish in philosophy the immutable characters of that Truth, which is in science, reality; in judgment, reason; and in ethics, justice. Finally, we shall acquaint you with the laws of Nature, whose equilibrium is stability, and we shall show how vain are the phantasies of our imagination before the fertile realities of movement and of life. We shall also invite the great poets of the future to create once more the divine comedy, no longer according to the dreams of man, but according to the mathematics of God.

Mysteries of other worlds, hidden forces, strange revelations, mysterious illnesses, exceptional faculties, spirits, apparitions, magical paradoxes, hermetic arcana, we shall say all, and we shall explain all. Who has given us this power? We do not fear to reveal it to our readers.

There exists an occult and sacred alphabet which the Hebrews attribute to Enoch, the Egyptians to Thoth or to Hermes Trismegistus, the Greeks to Cadmus and to Palamedes. This alphabet was known to the followers of Pythagoras, and is composed of absolute ideas attached to signs and numbers; by its combinations, it realizes the mathematics of thought. Solomon represented this alphabet by seventy-two names, written upon thirty-six talismans. Eastern initiates still call these the "little keys" or clavicles of Solomon. These keys are described, and their use explained, in a book the source of whose traditional dogma is the patriarch Abraham. This book is called the Sepher Yetzirah; with the aid of the Sepher Yetzirah one can penetrate the hidden sense of the Zohar, the great dogmatic treatise of the Qabalah of the Hebrews. The Clavicles of Solomon, forgotten in the course of time, and supposed lost, have been rediscovered by ourselves; without trouble we have opened all the doors of those old sanctuaries where absolute truth seemed to sleep, — always young, and always beautiful, like that princess of the childish legend, who, during a century of slumber, awaits the bridegroom whose mission it is to awaken her.

After our book, there will still be mysteries, but higher and farther in the infinite depths. This publication is a light or a folly, a mystification or a monument. Read, reflect, and judge.

The Key of the Mysteries
(La Clef des Grands Mystères)

Eliphas Levi

The Fourth Part

The Great Practical Secrets
or the Realization of Science


The lofty sciences of the Qabalah and of Magic promise man an exceptional, real, effective, efficient power, and one should regard them as false and vain if they do not give it.

Judge the teachers by their works, said the supreme Master. This rule of judgment is infallible.

If you wish me to believe in what you know, show me what you do.

God, in order to exalt man to moral emancipation, hides Himself from him and abandons to him, after a fashion, the government of the world. He leaves Himself to be guessed by the grandeurs and harmonies of nature, so that man may progressively make himself perfect by ever exalting the idea that he makes for himself of its author.

Man knows God only by the names which he gives to that Being of beings, and does not distinguish Him but by the images of Him which he endeavours to trace. He is then in a manner the creator of Him Who has created him. He believes himself the mirror of God, and by indefinitely enlarging his own mirage, he thinks that he may be able to sketch in infinite space the shadow of Him Who is without body, without shadow, and without space.

To Create God, to create one's self, to make one's self independent, immortal and without suffering: there certainly is a programme more daring than the dream of Prometheus. Its expression is bold to the point of impiety, its thought ambitious to the point of madness. Well, this programme is only paradoxical in its form, which lends itself to a false and sacrilegious interpretation. In one sense it is perfectly reasonable, and the science of the adepts promises to realize it, and to accomplish it in perfection.

Man, in effect, creates for himself a God corresponding to his own intelligence and his own goodness; he cannot raise his ideal higher than his moral development permits him to do. The God whom he adores is always an enlargement of his own reflection. To conceive the absolute of goodness and justice is to be one's self exceeding just and good.

The moral qualities of the spirit are riches, and the greatest of all riches. One must acquire them by strife and toil. One may bring this objection, the inequality of aptitudes; some children are born with organisms nearer to perfection. But we ought to believe that such organisms result from a more advanced work of Nature, and the children who are endowed with them have acquired them, if not by their own efforts, at least by the consolidated works of the human beings to whom their existence is bound. It is a secret of Nature, and Nature does nothing by chance; the possession of more developed intellectual faculties, like that of money and land, constitutes an indefeasible right of transmission and inheritance.

Yes, man is called to complete the work of his creator, and every instant employed by him to improve himself or to destroy himself, is decisive for all eternity. It is by the conquest of an intelligence eternally clear and of a will eternally just, that he constitutes himself as living for eternal life, since nothing survives injustice and error but the penalty of their disorder. To understand good is to will it, and on the plane of justice to will is to do. For this reason the Gospel tells us that men will be judged according to their works.

Our works make us so much what we are, that our body itself, as we have said, receives the modification, and sometimes the complete change, of its form from our habits.

A form conquered, or submitted to, becomes a providence, or a fatality, for all one's existence. Those strange figures which the Egyptians gave to the human symbols of divinity represent the fatal forms. Typhon has a crocodile's head. He is condemned to eat ceaselessly in order to fill his hippopotamus belly. Thus he is devoted, by his greed and his ugliness, to eternal destruction.

Man can kill or vivify his faculties by negligence or by abuse. He can create for himself new faculties by the good use of those which he has received from Nature. People often say that the affections will not be commanded, that faith is not possible for all, that one does not re-make one's own character. All these assertions are true only for the idle or the perverse. One can make one's self faithful, pious, loving, devoted, when one wishes sincerely to be so. One can give to one's spirit the calm of justness, as to one's will the almighty power of justice. Once can reign in Heaven by virtue of faith, on earth by virtue of science. The man who knows how to command himself is king of all Nature.

We are going to state forthwith, in this last book, by what means the true initiates have made themselves the masters of life, how they have overcome sorrow and death; how they work upon themselves and others the transformation of Proteus; how they exercise the divining power of Apollonius; how they make the gold of Raymond Lully and of Flamel; how in order to renew their youth they possess the secrets of Postel the Re-arisen, and those alleged to have been in the keeping of Cagliostro. In short, we are going to speak the last word of magic.


Chapter I

Of Transformation —
The Wand of Circe —
The Bath of Medea —
Magic Overcome by Its Own Weapons —
The Great Arcanum of the Jesuits and the Secret of Their Power

The Bible tells us that King Nebuchadnezzar, at the highest point of his power and his pride, was suddenly changed into a beast.
He fled into savage places, began to eat grass, let his beard and hair grow, as well as his nails, and remained in this state for seven years.
In our Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, we have said what we think of the mysteries of lycanthropy, or the metamorphosis of men into werewolves.
Everyone knows the fable of Circe and understands its allegory.
The fatal ascendant of one person on another is the true wand of Circe.
One knows that almost all human physiognomies bear a resemblance to one animal or another, that is to say, the signature of a specialized instinct.
Now, instincts are balanced by contrary instincts, and dominated by instincts stronger than those.
In order to dominate sheep, the dog plays upon their fear of wolves.
If you are a dog, and you want a pretty little cat to love you, you have only one means to take: to metamorphose yourself into a cat.
But how! By observation, imitation and imagination. We think that our figurative language will be understood for once, and we recommend this revelation to all who wish to magnetize: it is the deepest of all the secrets of their art.
Here is the formula in technical terms:
"To polarize one's own animal light, in equilibrated antagonism with the contrary pole."
To concentrate in one's self the special qualities of absorption in order to direct their rays towards an absorbing focus, and vice versa.
This government of our magnetic polarization may be done by the assistance of the animal forms of which we have spoken; they will serve to fix the imagination.
Let us give an example:
You wish to act magnetically upon a person polarized like yourself, which, if you are a magnetizer, you will divine at the first contact: only that person is a little less strong that you are, a mouse, while you are a rat. Make yourself a cat, and you will capture it.
In one of the admirable stories which, though he did not invent it, he has told better than anybody, Perrault puts upon the stage a cat, which cunningly induces an ogre to change himself into a mouse, and the thing is no sooner done, than the mouse is crunched by the cat. The Tales of Mother Goose, like the Golden Ass of Apuleius, are perhaps true magical legends, and hide beneath the cloak of childish fairy tales the formidable secrets of science.
It is a matter of common knowledge that magnetizers give to pure water the properties and taste of wine, liqueurs and every conceivable drug, merely by the laying-on of hands, that is to say, by their will expressed in a sign.
One knows, too, that those who tame fierce animals conquer lions by making themselves mentally and magnetically stronger and fiercer than lions.
Jules Gerard, the intrepid hunter of the African lion, would be devoured if he were afraid. But, in order not to be afraid of a lion, one must make one's self stronger and more savage than the animal itself by an effort of imagination and of will. One must say to one's self: It is I who am the lion, and in my presence this animal is only a dog who ought to tremble before me.
Fourier imagined anti-lions; Jules Gerard has realized that chimera of the phanlasterian[1] dreamer.
But, one will say, in order not to fear lions, it is enough to be a man of courage and well armed.
No, that is not enough. One must know one's self by heart, so to speak, to be able to calculate the leaps of the animal, divining its stratagems, avoiding its claws, foreseeing its movements, to be in a word past-master in lioncraft, as the excellent La Fontaine might have said.
Animals are the living symbols of the instincts and passions of men. If you make a man timid, you change him into a hare. If, on the contrary, you drive him to ferocity, you make a tiger of him.
The wand of Circe is the power of fascination which woman possesses; and the changing of the companions of Ulysses into hogs is not a story peculiar to that time.
But no metamorphosis may be worked without destruction. To change a hawk into a dove, one must first kill it, then cut it to pierces, so as to destroy even the least trace of its first form, and then boil it in the magic bath of Medea.
Observe how modern hierophants proceed in order to accomplish human regeneration; how, for example, in the Catholic religion, they go to work in order to change a man more or less weak and passionate into a stoical missionary of the Society of Jesus.
There is the great secret of that venerable and terrible Order, always misunderstood, often calumniated, and always sovereign.
Read attentively the book entitled, The Exercises of St. Ignatius, and note with what magical power that man of genius operates the realization of faith.
He orders his disciples to see, to touch, to smell, to taste invisible things. He wishes that the senses should be exalted during prayer to the point of voluntary hallucination. You are meditating upon a mystery of faith; St. Ignatius wishes, in the first place, that you should create a place, dream of it, see it, touch it. If it is hell, he gives you burning rocks to touch, he makes you swim in shadows thick as pitch, he puts liquid sulphur on your tongue, he fills your nostrils with an abominable stench, he shows you frightful tortures, and makes you hear groans superhuman in their agony; he commands your will to create all that by exercises obstinately persevered in. Every one carries this out in his own fashion, but always in the way best suited to impress him. It is not the hashish intoxication which was useful to the knavery of the Old Man of the Mountain; it is a dream without sleep, an hallucination without madness, a reasoned and willed vision, a real creation of intelligence and faith. Thence-forward, when he preaches, the Jesuit can say: "What we have seen with our eyes, what we have heard with our ears, and what our hands have handled, that do we declare unto you." The Jesuit thus trained is in communion with a circle of wills exercised like his own; consequently each of the fathers is as strong as the Society, and the Society is stronger than the world.

Chapter II

How to Preserve and Renew Youth —
The Secrets of Cagliostro —
The Possibility of Resurrection —
Example of William Postel, Called the Resurrected —
Story of a Wonder-Working Workman, etc.

One knows that a sober, moderately busy, and perfectly regular life usually prolongs existence; but in our opinion, that is little more than the prolongation of old age, and one has the right to ask from the science which we profess other privileges and other secrets.
To be a long time young, or even to become young again, that is what would appear desirable and precious to the majority of men. It is possible? We shall examine the question.
The famous Count of Saint-Germain is dead, we do not doubt, but no one ever saw him grow old. He appeared always of the age of forty years, and at the time of his greatest celebrity, he pretended to be over eighty.
Ninon de l'Enclos, in her very old age, was still a young, beautiful and seductive woman. She died without having grown old.
Desbarrolles, the celebrated palmist, has been for a long while for everybody a man of thirty-five years. His birth certificate would speak very differently if he dared to show it, but no one would believe it.
Cagliostro always appeared the same age. He pretended to possess not only an elixir which gave to the old, for an instant, all the vigour of youth; but he also prided himself on being able to operate physical regeneration by means which we have detailed and analysed in our History of Magic.
Cagliostro and the Count of Saint-Germain attributed the preservation of their youth to the existence and use of the universal medicine, that medicament uselessly sought by so many hermetists and alchemists.
An Initiate of the sixteenth century, the good and learned William Postel, never pretended that he possessed the great arcanum of the hermetic philosophy; and yet after having been seen old and broken, he reappeared with a bright complexion, without wrinkles, his beard and hair black, his body agile and vigorous. His enemies pretended that he roughed, and dyed his hair; for scoffers and false savants must find some sort of explanation for the phenomena which they do not understand.
The great magical means of preserving the youth of the body is to prevent the soul from growing old by preserving preciously that original freshness of sentiments and thoughts which the corrupt world calls illusions, and which we shall call the primitive mirages of eternal truth.
To believe in happiness upon earth, in friendship, in love, in a maternal Providence which counts all our steps, and will reward all our tears, is to be a perfect dupe, the corrupt world will say; it does not see that it is itself who is the dupe, believing itself strong in depriving itself of all the delights of the soul.
To believe in moral good is to possess that good: for this reason the Saviour of the world promises the kingdom of heaven to those who should make themselves like little children. What is childhood? It is the age of faith. The child knows nothing yet of life; and thus he radiates confident immortality. Is it possible for him to doubt the devotion, the tenderness, the friendship, and the love of Providence when he is in the arms of his mother?
Become children in heart, and you will remain young in body.
The realities of God and nature surpass infinitely in beauty and goodness all the imagination of men. It is thus that the world-weary are people who have never known how to be happy; and those who are disillusioned prove by their dislikes that they have only drunk of muddy streams. To enjoy even the animal pleasures of life one must have the moral sense; and those who calumniate existence have certainly abused it.
High magic, as we have proved, leads man back to the laws of the purest morality. Either he finds a thing holy or makes it holy, says an adept — Vel sanctum invenit, vel sanctum facit; because it makes us understand that in order to be happy, even in this world, one must be holy.
To be holy! that is easy to say; but how give one's self faith when one no longer believes? How re-discover a taste for virtue in a heart faded by vice?
One must have recourse to the four words of science: to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silence.
One must still one's dislikes, study duty, and begin by practising it as though one loved it.
You are an unbeliever, and you wish to make yourself a Christian?
Perform the exercises of a Christian, pray regularly, using the Christian formulae; approach the sacraments as if you had faith, and faith will come. That is the secret of the Jesuits, contained in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
By similar exercises, a fool, if he will it with perseverance, would become a wise man.[2]
By changing the habits of the soul one certainly changes those of the body; we have already said so, and we have explained the method.
What contributes above all to age us by making us ugly? Hatred and bitterness, the unfavourable judgments which we make of others, our rages of hurt vanity, and our ill-satisfied passions. A kindly and gentle philosophy would avoid all these evils.
If we close our eyes to the defects of our neighbour, and only consider his good qualities, we shall find good and benevolence everywhere. The most perverse man has a good side to him, and softens when one knows how to take him. If you had nothing in common with the vices of men, you would not even perceive them. Friendship, and the devotions which it inspires, are found even in prisons and in convict stations. The horrible Lacenaire faithfully returned any money which had been lent to him, and frequently acted with generosity and kindness. I have no doubt that in the life of crime which Cartouche and Mandrin led there were acts of virtue fit to draw tears from the eyes. There has never been any one absolutely bad or absolutely good. "There is none good but God," said the best of the Masters.
That quality in ourselves which we call zeal for virtue is often nothing but a masterful secret self-love, a jealousy in disguise, and a proud instinct of contradiction. "When we see manifest disorders and scandalous sinners," say mystical theologians, "let us believe that God is submitting them to greater tests than those with which He tries us, that certainly, or at least very probably, we are not as good as they are, and should do much worse in their place."
Peace! Peace! this is the supreme welfare of the soul, and it is to give us this that Christ came to the world.
"Glory to God in the highest, peace upon earth, and good will toward men!" cried the Angels of Heaven at the birth of the Saviour.
The ancient fathers of Christianity counted an eighth deadly sin: it was Sorrow.
In fact, to the true Christian even repentance is not a sorrow; it is a consolation, a joy, and a triumph. "I wished evil, and I wish it no more; I was dead and I am alive." The father of the Prodigal son has killed the fatted calf because his son has returned. What can he do? Tears and embarrassment, no doubt! but above all joy!
There is only one sad thing in the world, and that is sin and folly. Since we are delivered, let us laugh and shout for joy, for we are saved, and all those who loved us in their lives rejoice in heaven!
We all bear within ourselves a principle of death and a principle of immortality. Death is the beast, and the beast produces always bestial stupidity. God does not love fools, for his divine spirit is called the spirit of intelligence. Stupidity expiates itself by suffering and slavery. The stick is made for beasts.
Suffering is always a warning. So much the worse for him who does not understand it! When Nature tightens the rein, it is that we are swerving; when she plies the whip, it is that danger is imminent. Woe, then, to him who does not reflect!
When we are ripe for death, we leave life without regret, and nothing would make us take it back; but when death is premature, the soul regrets life, and a clever thaumaturgist would be able to recall it to the body. The sacred books indicate to us the proceeding which must be employed in such a case. The Prophet Elisha and the Apostle St. Paul employed it with success. The deceased must be magnetized by placing the feet on his feet, the hands on his hands, the mouth on his mouth. Then concentrate the whole will for a long time, call to itself the escaped soul, using all the loving thoughts and mental caresses of which one is capable. If the operator inspires in that soul much affection or great respect, if in the thought which he communicates magnetically to it the thaumaturgist can persuade it that life is still necessary to it, and that happy days are still in store for it below, it will certainly return, and for the man of everyday science the apparent death will have been only a lethargy.
It was after a lethargy of this kind that William Postel, recalled to life by Mother Jeanne, reappeared with a new youth, and called himself no longer anything but Postel the Resurrected, Postellus restitutus.
In the year 1799, there was in the Faubourg St. Antoine, at Paris, a blacksmith who gave himself out to be an adept of hermetic science. His name was Leriche, and he passed for having performed miraculous cures and even resurrections by the use of the universal medicine. A ballet girl of the Opera, who believed in him, came one day to see him, and said to him, weeping, that her lover had just died. M. Leriche went out with her to the house of death. As he entered, a person who was going out, said to him: "It is useless for you to go upstairs, he died six hours ago." "Never mind," said the blacksmith, "since I am here I will see him." He went upstairs, and found a corpse frozen in every part except in the hollow of the stomach, where he thought that he still felt a little heat. He had a big fire made, massaged his whole body with hot napkins, rubbed him with the universal medicine dissolved in spirit of wine. [His pretended universal medicine must have been a powder containing mercury analogous to the kermes[3] of the druggist.] Meanwhile the mistress of the dead man wept and called him back to life with the most tender words. After an hour and a half of these attentions, Leriche held a mirror before the patient's face, and found the glass slightly clouded. They redoubled their efforts, and soon obtained a still better marked sign of life. They then put him in a well warmed bed, and a few hours afterwards he was entirely restored to life. The name of this person was Candy. He lived from that time without ever being ill. In 1845 he was still alive, and was living at Place du Chevalier du Guet, 6. He would tell the story of his resurrection to any one who would listen to him, and gave much occasion for laughter to the doctors and wiseacres of his quarter. The good man consoled himself in the vein of Galileo, and answered them: "You may laugh as much as you like. All I know is, that the death certificate was signed and the burial licence made out; eighteen hours later they were going to bury me, and here I am."

Chapter III

The Grand Arcanum of Death

We often become sad in thinking that the most beautiful life must finish, and the approach of the terrible unknown that one calls death disgusts us with all the joys of existence.
Why be born, if one must live so little? Why bring up with so much care children who must die? Such is the question of human ignorance in its most frequent and its saddest doubts.
This, too, is what the human embryo may vaguely ask itself at the approach of that birth which is about to throw it into an unknown world by stripping it of its protective envelope. Let us study the mystery of birth, and we shall have the key of the great arcanum of death!
Thrown by the laws of Nature into the womb of a woman, the incarnated spirit very slowly wakes, and creates for itself with effort organs which will later be indispensable, but which as they grow increase its discomfort in its present situation. The happiest period of the life of the embryo is that when, like a chrysalis, it spreads around it the membrane which serves it for refuge, and which swims with it in a nourishing and preserving fluid. At that time it is free, and does not suffer. It partakes of the universal life, and receives the imprint of the memories of Nature which will later determine the configuration of its body and the form of its features. That happy age may be called the childhood of the embryo.
Adolescence follows; the human form becomes distinct, and its sex is determined; a movement takes place in the maternal egg which resembles the vague reveries of that age which follows upon childhood. The placenta, which is the exterior and the real body of the foetus, feels germinating in itself something unknown, which already tends to break it and escape. The child then enters more distinctly into the life of dreams. Its brain, acting as a mirror of that of its mother, reproduces with so much force her imaginations, that it communicates their form to its own limbs. Its mother is for it at that time what God is for us, a Providence unknown and invisible, to which it aspires to the point of identifying itself with everything that she admires. It holds to her, it lives by her, although it does not see her, and would not even know how to understand her. If it was able to philosophize, it would perhaps deny the personal existence and intelligence of that mother which is for it as yet only a fatal prison and an apparatus of preservation. Little by little, however, this servitude annoys it; it twists itself, it suffers, it feels that its life is about to end. Then comes an hour of anguish and convulsion; its bonds break; it feels that it is about to fall into the gulf of the unknown. It is accomplished; it falls, it is crushed with pain, a strange cold seizes it, it breathes a last sigh which turns into a first cry; it is dead to embryonic life, it is born to human life!
During embryonic life it seemed to it that the placenta was its body, and it was in fact its special embryonic body, a body useless for another life, a body which had to be thrown off as an unclean thing at the moment of birth.
The body of our human life is like a second envelope, useless for the third life, and for that reason we throw it aside at the moment of our second birth.
Human life compared to heavenly life is veritably an embryo. When our evil passions kill us, Nature miscarries, and we are born before our time for eternity, which exposes us to that terrible dissolution which St. John calls the second death.
According to the constant tradition of ecstatics, the abortions of human life remain swimming in the terrestrial atmosphere which they are unable to surmount, and which little by little absorbs them and drowns them. They have human form, but always lopped and imperfect; one lacks a hand, another an arm, this one is nothing but a torso, and that is a pale rolling head. They have been prevented from rising to heaven by a wound received during human life, a moral wound which has caused a physical deformity, and through this wound, little by little, all of their existence leaks away.
Soon their moral soul will be naked, and in order to hide its shame by making itself at all costs a new veil, it will be obliged to drag itself into the outer darkness, and pass slowly through the dead sea, the slumbering waters of ancient chaos. These wounded souls are the larvae of the second formation of the embryo; they nourish their airy bodies with a vapour of shed blood, and they fear the point of the sword. Frequently they attach themselves to vicious men and live upon their lives, as the embryo lives in its mother's womb. In these circumstances, they are able to take the most horrible forms to represent the frenzied desires of those who nourish them, and it is these which appear under the figures of demons to the wretched operators of the nameless works of black magic.
These larvae fear the light, above all the light of the mind. A flash of intelligence is sufficient to destroy them as by a thunderbolt, and hurl them into that Dead Sea which one must not confuse with the sea in Palestine so-called. All that we reveal in this place belongs to the tradition of seers, and can only stand before science in the name of that exceptional philosophy, which Paracelsus called the philosophy of sagacity, philosophia sagax.

Chapter IV

Arcanum Arcanorum

The great arcanum — that is to say, the unutterable and inexplicable secret — is the absolute knowledge of good and of evil.
"When you have eaten the fruit of this tree, you will be as the gods," said the Serpent.

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"If you eat of it, you will die," replied Divine Wisdom.
Thus good and evil bear fruit on one same tree, and from one same root.
Good personified is God.
Evil personified is the Devil.
To know the secret or the formula of God is to be God.
To know the secret or the formula of the Devil is to be the Devil.
To wish to be at the same time God and Devil is to absorb in one's self the most absolute antinomy, the two most strained contrary forces; it is the wish to shut up in one's self an infinite antagonism.
It is to drink a poison which would extinguish the suns and consume the worlds.[4]

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It is to put on the consuming robe of Deianira.
It is to devote one's self to the promptest and most terrible of all deaths.
Woe to him who wishes to know too much! For if excessive and rash knowledge does not kill him it will make him mad.
To eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, is to associate evil with good, and assimilate the one to the other.
It is to cover the radiant countenance of Osiris with the mask of Typhon.
It is to raise the sacred veil of Isis; it is to profane the sanctuary.

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The rash man who dares to look at the sun without protection becomes blind, and from that moment for him the sun is black.
We are forbidden to say more on this subject; we shall conclude our revelation by the figure of three pentacles.
These three stars will explain it sufficiently. They may be compared with that which we have caused to be drawn at the head of our "History of magic." By reuniting the four, one may arrive at the understanding of the Great Arcanum of Arcana.
It now remains for us to complete our work by giving the great key of William Postel.

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This key is that of the Tarot. There are four suits, wands, caps,{sic} swords, coins or pentacles, corresponding to the four cardinal points of Heaven, and the four living creatures or symbolic signs and numbers and letters formed in a circle; then the seven planetary signs, with the indication of their repetition signified by the three colours, to symbolize the natural world, the human world and the divine world, whose hieroglyphic emblems compose the twenty-one trumps of our Tarot.
In the centre of the ring may be perceived the double triangle forming the Star or Seal of Solomon. It is the religious and metaphysical triad analogous to the natural triad of universal generation in the equilibrated substance.
Around the triangle is the cross which divides the circle into four equal parts, and thus the symbols of religion are united to the signs of geometry; faith completes science, and science acknowledge faith.
By the aid of this key one can understand the universal symbolism of the ancient world, and note its striking analogies with our dogmas. One will thus recognize that the divine revelation is permanent in nature and humanity. One will feel that Christianity only brought light and heat into the universal temple by causing to descend therein the spirit of charity, which is the Very Life of God Himself.


Thanks be unto thee, O my God, that thou hast called me to this admirable light! Thou, the Supreme Intelligence and the Absolute Life of those numbers and those forces which obey thee in order to people the infinite with inexhaustible creation! Mathematics proves thee, the harmonies of Nature proclaim thee, all forms as they pass by salute thee and adore thee!

Abraham knew thee, Hermes divined thee, Pythagoras calculated thee, Plato, in every dream of his genius, aspired to thee; but only one initiate, only one sage has revealed thee to the children of earth, one alone could say of thee: "I and my Father are one." Glory then be his, since all his glory is thine!

Thou knowest, O my Father, that he who writes these lines has struggled much and suffered much; he has endured poverty, calumny, proscription, prison, the forsaking of those whom he loved: — and yet never did he find himself unhappy, since truth and justice remained to him for consolation!

Thou alone art holy, O God of true hearts and upright souls, and thou knowest if ever I thought myself pure in thy sight! Like all men I have been the plaything of human passions. At last I conquered them, or rather thou has conquered them in me; and thou hast given me for a rest the deep peace of those who have no goal and no ambition but Thyself.

I love humanity, because men, as far as they are not insensate, are never wicked but through error or through weakness. Their natural disposition is to love good, and it is through that love that thou hast given them as a support in all their trials that they must sooner or later be led back to the worship of justice by the love of truth.

Now let my books go where thy Providence shall send them! If they contain the words of thy wisdom they will be stronger than oblivion. If, on the contrary, they contain only errors, I know at least that my love of justice and of truth will survive them, and that thus immortality cannot fail to treasure the aspirations and wishes of my soul hat thou didst create immortal!


[1] Fourier was a Socialist who wrote a sort of "Utopia." His social unit was the "phalanstere." —TRANS.

[2] If the fool would but persist in his folly, he would become wise. —WILLIAM BLAKE.

[3] Made by boiling black antimony sulphide with sodium carbonate solution. Used in gout and rheumatism and some skin diseases on the continent, rarely in England. —TRANS.

[4] An allusion to Shiva, the patron of adepts, who drank the poison generated by the churning of the 'Milk Ocean.' (See Bhagavata Purana Skandha VIII, Chaps. 5 - 12.) Levi therefore means in this passage the exact contrary of what he pretends to mean. Otherwise this "Be good, and you will be happy" chapter would scarcely deserve the title "Arcanum Arcanorum." — O.M.

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