Updated: Sep 8, 2020
From the book of The Great Secret or Occultism Unveiled - Eliphas Levi
A universe may be defined as a group of magnetized spheres which attract and repel one another. The beings produced by the different spheres share their special magnetization balanced by the universal magnetism.
Poorly balanced men are disordered or exaggerated magnets which nature weighs one against the other, until the partial error in balance has produced destruction.
Bunsen's spectrum analysis will enable science to distinguish the special features of the magnets and thus supply a scientific reason for the ancient rules of judicial astrology. The different planets of the system certainly exert a magnetic effect on our own globe and on the various constitutions of the living creatures which inhabit it.
We all absorb the celestial aromas mingled with the spirit of earth and born under the influence of diverse stars; we all have a preference for a force characterized by a particular form, for a certain bent and for a certain colour.
The Pythoness of Delphi, seated on a tripod over a crevice in the ground, drew in the astral fluid through her sexual parts, fell into a state of dementia or clairvoyance and uttered incoherent sentences which sometimes turned out to be oracles. All highly-strung natures abandoned to disorders of the passions resemble the Pythoness and breath in Python, that is to say, the evil and fatal spirit of the earth. Then they forcibly project the fluid which has penetrated them, inspiring and absorbing immediately afterwards the vital fluids of other beings; thus they exercise in rotation the malign powers, first of the evil eye and then of the vampire.
If these sick people who are suffering from this deleterious form of inhaling and exhaling take it for a power and wish to increase the accumulation and projection, they express their desires in ceremonies which are called evocations, and hoodoo, and become what were termed in former times necromancers and sorcerers.
Every appeal to some unknown and strange intelligence, whose existence has not been demonstrated, with the object of substituting its guidance for that of our own reason and of our own free will, may be looked on as intellectual suicide, for it is an appeal to folly.
Everything which resigns the will to mysterious forces, everything which makes other voices speak in us than the voices of conscience and reason, belongs to mental derangement.
The insane are static visionaries, a waking vision is a fit of madness. The art of evocation is the art of provoking an artificial fit of madness in oneself.
All visions have the nature of dreams and are illusions of unsound minds. They are clouds from a disordered imagination projected into the astral light; it is we ourselves who appear to ourselves disguised as phantoms, apparitions of the dead or as demons.
Crazed individuals seem to make nature herself delirious, within the circle of their attraction and magnetic projection: the furniture makes rapping noises and moves about, and lightweight articles are attracted or thrown at a distance. Mental specialists are well aware of this but are afraid to admit as much, because official science has not yet acknowledged that human beings can be magnets and that these magnets can be maladjusted out of order. The abbé Vianney, parish priest of Ars, believed he was being continually tormented by a demon's practical jokes; and Berbiguier, of Terre-Neuve du Thym, armed himself with long pins for sticking into goblins.
Now, the point of support exists in the resistance offered to them by undisciplined development. What renders the organization of an army impossible in democracy is that each soldier fancies himself a general. There is only one general with the Jesuits.
Obedience is the gymnastics of liberty, and before one can reach the point of doing always what one wants it is often necessary to learn to do what one does not want. What pleases us is to be in the service of fantasy; doing things we do not like is to exercise the reason and will and make them triumph.
Contraries assert and confirm themselves by contraries. Looking left when one wants to go right is an act of dissembling and prudence; but to throw some weights into the left-hand pan of the scales to make the right-hand pan rise, is to know the laws of dynamics and equilibrium.
It is the resistance which determines the quantity of the force in dynamics; but there is no resistance which cannot be worn down by persistent effort and movement: this is how the mouse gnaws through the rope and the drops of water pierce the rock.
Effort which is renewed daily builds force up and conserves it, even if the action is applied to something which is indifferent in itself or unreasonable and ridiculous into the bargain. It is hardly a serious-looking occupation to pass the beads of a rosary between one's fingers while repeating 'Hail Mary!' two or three hundred times. All the same, if a monk gets to bed without going through the rosary, he will wake up next day feeling very low, with no courage to offer the morning prayer and will be inattentive during Divine Service. Therefore the monks' confessors will keep reminding them, and with good reason, not to neglect the little things.
The grimoires and magic rituals are full of directions which are detailed and, on the face of it, ridiculous:
Eat your food without salt for ten or twenty days, sleep propped on your elbow, sacrifice a black cock at midnight at a crossroads in the middle of a forest, go to a graveyard and take a fistful of earth from a freshly occupied grave, etc., then shroud yourself in certain bizarre vestments and pronounce long and tedious conjurations. Were the authors of these books trying to make fun of their readers? Were they imparting genuine secrets to them? No, they were not joking, and their imagination of their adepts and to make them conscious of a supplementary force which exists as soon as one believes in it and always grows stronger with persistent effort. Only, it can happen by the law of the reaction of contraries that the devil is evoked by unremitting prayer to God, and that after satanic conjurations one hears the angels weep. All hell danced with bells when St Anthony recited the Psalms, and Paradise seemed to revive again before the enchantments of Albertus Magnus or Merlin.
It is because ceremonies in themselves mean very little, and everything depends on the inhaling and the exhaling. The formulas consecrated by long usage, place us in communication with the living and the dead, and when our will enters like this into the great currents it is able to arm itself with all their emanations. A servant-girl who practises may, at a given moment, deploy all the temporal might of the Church with the support of the arms of France, as was clearly shown at the time of the baptism and abduction of the Jew Mortara. All civilized Europe, in the nineteenth century protested against this act, and suffered it because a devout housemaid had willed it. But earth sent as auxiliaries to this girl the spectral emanations of the eras of Saint Dominic and Torquemada; Saint Ghislieri prayed for her. The shade of the great king who revoked the edict of Nantes gave her a sign of approbation, and the entire clerical world was ready to uphold her.
Joan of Arc, who was burnt as a witch, had in fact attracted to her the spirit of heroic France, and poured it out in a marvellous manner to electrify its army and put the English to flight. A pope rehabilitated her; it was not enough, it was necessary to canonize her. If this thaumaturge was no sorcerer she was plainly a saint. What is a sorcerer anyway? Only a thaumaturge who does not meet with the pope's approval.
Miracles are, if I may be allowed to say so, extravagances of nature produced by the excited emotions of man. They always follow the same laws. Any popular celebrity could work miracles, sometimes in fact without willing it. At the time when France idolized its kings, the French kings cured scrofula, and, in our own days the immense popularity of those picturesque and barbarian soldiers called zouaves has developed in a zouave named Jacob the faculty of healing with voice and eye. We hear that this zouave has left his corps to join the grenadiers, and we look on it as certain that the grenadier Jacob will no longer have the power which was the exclusive property of the zouave.
In Druid times, in Gaul, there were female thaumaturges called elves and fairies. To the Druids they were saints; to the Christians they were sorcerers. Joseph Balsamo, known as the divine Cagliostro to his disciples, was condemned at Rome as a heretic and warlock, for having performed miracles and issued predictions without leave from the Ordinary. Now in this the inquisitors were correct, since the Roman Church held the monopoly of High Magic and effective ceremonies. She charms demons with water and salt; she evokes God with bread and wine to gain His visible and palpable presence on earth; she uses oil to bestow health and pardon.
She does more: she creates priests and kings.
She alone understands and reveals why the kings from the triple realm of magic, the three magi, led by the blazing star, came to offer to Jesus Christ in His cradle, the gold which fascinates the eyes and conquers men's hearts, the frankincense which lifts asceticism to the brain, and the myrrh which preserves dead bodies and renders palpable, to some extent, the doctrine of immortality by showing inviolability and incorruption in death.