Updated: Sep 8
From the book of The Great Secret: Or Occultism Unveiled by Eliphas Levi
The will is the practical realizer: we can do everything which we believe is a reasonable project.
In his own sphere of action, man is the image of the all-powerful God; he is able both to create and to transform.
His first task is to exercise this power on himself. When he enters the world, his faculties are a chaos, the darkness of his intellect covers the abyss of his heart, and his spirit is poised in uncertainty as if it were swept here and there by the waves.
He has been endowed with reason, but this reason is still passive and it is up to him to rouse it into activity; to let his face shine in the midst of the waves and cry: let there be light!
He develops a rational mind, he develops a conscience, he develops a heart. The divine law will express just what he has been doing, and the whole of nature will become for him exactly what he would like it to be.
Eternity will enter and remain in his memory. He will say to spirit: be matter, and to matter: be spirit, and spirit and matter will obey him!
All substance is modified by action, all action is controlled by spirit, all spirit is controlled conformably to the will, and all will is decided by some reason.
The reality of things is in their reason for existing, and this reason for things is the principle of that which is.
There is nothing other than force and matter, say the atheists. They might just as well declare that books are nothing more than paper and ink.
Matter is the adjunct of the spirit; without the spirit it would have no reason to exist, and it would not exist.
Matter is changed into spirit by the agency of our senses, and this transformation, perceptible only to our souls, is the thing we call pleasure.
Pleasure is the sensation of a divine action. Letting it thrive creates life and transforms dead compounds into living substances in the most marvellous manner.
Why does nature draw the two sexes together with so much rapture and intoxication? Because she invites them to the great work par excellence, the work of eternal fruitfulness.
What talk is that about the joys of the flesh? The flesh has neither griefs nor joys: it is but a passive instrument. Our nerves are the violin strings with which nature makes us hear and feel the music of sensual delight; and all the joys of life, even those which are most spoilt, are the exclusive share of the soul.
What is beauty, if not the imprint of spirit on matter? Does the body of the Venus de Milo need to be flesh to enchant our eyes and inflame our thoughts? Woman's beauty is the hymn of motherhood; the soft and delicate shape of her breasts never fails to remind us of the first thirst of our lips; we should like to repay them with eternal kisses for the sweet drink they gave us. Does this mean that we are in love with the flesh? Despoil them of their adorable poetry and what inspiration could one find in these 'rubber pillows' filled with glands under a skin now brown and now pink and white? And whatever would become of our most charming emotions if the hand of the lover, no longer trembling, had to arm itself with the magnifying glass of the physician or the scalpel of the anatomist?
Apuleus, in a clever fable, recounts how a blundering experimenter, having seduced the maidservant of a female magician, got from her an ointment which had been prepared by her mistress. He attempted to change himself into a bird, but only succeeded in transforming himself into an ass. He was told that to recover his original form, all that he needed to do was to feed on some roses, and his first thought was how easy this would be. However, he soon found out that roses were not made for the benefit of donkeys. Whenever he tried to get near a rose-bush, he was driven off with cudgel blows. He suffered a thousand misfortunes, and was only saved at last by the direct intervention of the gods.
Some people have suspected that Apuleus was a Christian, and have tried to read into this legend of the Ass a sly dig at the mysteries of Christianity. Eager to mount upward into the heavens, so they say, the Christians disowned science and fell under the yoke of that blind faith which caused them to be accused, in the first centuries, of worshipping the head of an ass.
Having become enslaved to a fatal asceticism, they were no longer able to get close to those natural beauties which are typified by roses. Pleasure, beauty, even nature and life themselves were anathematized by these ungracious and ignorant guides, who drove from their presence the poor ass of Bethlehem. It is at this period that the Middle Ages dreamt of 'The Romance of The Rose'. It is then that the Initiates into the sciences of antiquity, anxious to regain the rose without renouncing the cross, put the two together and adopted the name Rosae Crucis (or Rosicrucian) so that the rose was still the cross and the cross could immortalize the rose.
The only true pleasure, true beauty and genuine love belongs to the wise; who are actually the creators of their own happiness. When they abstain from something it is to learn how to use it properly and, when they deprive themselves, it is to gain some delight in exchange.
What misery is more to be pitied than that of the soul, and how well-entitled to lament are those who have impoverished their hearts! Compare the poverty of Homer with the wealth of Trimalcion, and say which of them is the poor wretch. What is the good of possessions if they pervert us, seeing that they are never really ours but will inevitably be lost or left to others? What purpose do they serve if they are not the instruments of wisdom in our hands? Are they for ministering to the wants of animal life, to brutalize us with satiety and loathing: is that the aim of our existence? Is that a positive way of life? Surely, it is the falsest and most depraved of ideals? Anyone who employs his soul about the business of fattening his carcase is already playing a fool's game; but to wear out both body and soul for the privilege of leaving behind a fortune to be squandered by a young idiot, who will surrender it into the lap of the first loose woman who gets her hands on him, is that not the height of lunacy? Yet such are the actions of responsible men who look on philosophers and poets as dreamers.
What I prize, said Curius, is not to own great wealth but to have those who do at my command, and Saint Vincent de Paul, probably without thinking of Curius's maxim, revealed its full grandeur in the service of charity. What monarch would ever have been able to found so many alms-houses or to endow so many places of refuge for the homeless? What Rothschild would have managed to find enough millions for all that? The poor priest, Vincent de Paul, was determined to do it; he spoke and riches obeyed him.
His secret lay in possessing the power which creates and transforms, a persevering will and a wise application of the most sacred laws of nature. Learn to will what God wishes, and everything you want will certainly happen.
You must also understand that contraries materialize through contraries: greed is always poor, unselfishness is always rich.
Pride provokes scorn, modesty wins praise, over-indulgence in sex kills pleasure, moderation refines and renews sensual enjoyment. You will get, every time, the opposite of whatever you want to have unfairly, and you will be repaid a hundred times over for anything you sacrifice to justice. So, if you wish to reap on the left hand, sow on the right hand; and meditate on this piece of advice, which looks like a paradox and will give you a hint of one of the greatest secrets of occult philosophy.
If you desire to attract, make a vacuum. It works by a physical law which is analogous to a moral law. The rushing streams seek the mighty deeps. The waters are the daughters of the clouds and the mountains, and always set out for the valleys. True enjoyment comes from above, as we have already said: it is desire which attracts, and desire is a bottomless pit.
That which is not attracts that which is, hence those who are most unworthy of love are sometimes the most beloved. Fullness goes looking for a vacuum, and the vacuum sucks it in. Animals and wet-nurses know this well. Pindar never loved Sappho, and Sappho had to resign herself to all the disdain of Phaon. A man and woman of genius are brother and sister: their mating would be a sort of incest; and a man who is merely a man will never fall in love with a 'bearded lady'.
Rousseau seems to have sensed this when he married a servant girl, a dull-witted and grasping virago. But he could never get Thérèse to realize his intellectual superiority, and he was obviously her inferior in the cruder aspects of existence. In their household Thérèse was the man and Rousseau was the woman. Rousseau was too proud to accept his position, and protested against Thérèse's regime by treating her children as foundlings. By doing so he set nature against him and exposed himself to the mother's revenge.
You men of genius, refrain from having children; your only legitimate offspring are your books. Never marry; reputation is your wife! Keep your virility for her; and, when you find a Heloise, do not expose yourselves to Abelard's fate for the sake of a woman!