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The Outer Darkness by Eliphas Levi

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

From the book of The Great Secret Or Occultism Unveiled by Eliphas Levi

We have stated that the phenomenon of physical light manifests and takes place solely in the eyes which see it. That is to say that visibility has no existence for us without the faculty of vision.

The same is true of the intellectual light, it only exists for those intelligences which are capable of seeing it. It is that inner light for lack of which there is nothing but the outer darkness where, according to the words of Christ, there is and will always be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The enemies of the truth resemble child delinquents, overturning and putting out all the lamps, because they can scream and cry in the dark more easily.

Truth is so inseparably bound up with what is good that every evil deed freely consented to and done without a twinge of conscience, extinguishes the light of our soul and casts us out into the outer darkness.

This is the essence of mortal sin. The sinner is represented in the ancient fable by Oedipus who, having killed his father and violated his mother, ended by putting out his own eyes.

Knowledge is the father of human intelligence, and faith is its mother.

There were two trees in the Garden of Eden, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.

It is knowledge which should and which can fertilize faith; otherwise she exhausts herself with monstrous abortions and gives birth to nothing but phantoms.

It is faith which ought to be the recompense of knowledge and the object for which he strives, without her he ends by doubting himself, becomes greatly discouraged and very soon despairing.

Thus the believers, on the one hand, who despise science and misunderstand nature, and the scientists, on the other hand, who insult, reject and would like to destroy faith, are both of them the enemies of the light and dash out to contend with one another in the outer darkness where Proudhon and Veuillot raise their voices turn and turn about, in a way which sounds worse than tears, and go on to grind their teeth.

True faith cannot possibly come into conflict with true science. Also, every explanation of dogma which science demonstrates as false ought to be rejected by faith.

We are no longer living in the days when it is the fashion to say: I believe it because it is beyond reason. We must say nowadays: I believe because it would be unreasonable not to do so; Credo quia absurdum non credere.

Science and faith are not two engines of war set on a collision course: they are the two columns destined to support the pediment of the temple of peace. It is necessary to clean the gold of the sanctuary so often tarnished by the grime of priestcraft.

Christ said: 'The words of the doctrine are spirit and life, the letter counts for nothing.' He also said: 'Judge not that ye be not judged, for with whatsoever judgment ye judge ye shall be judged, and as ye measure so shall it be meted out unto you.' What a splendid eulogy on the wisdom of reasonable doubt! And what a proclamation of liberty of conscience! In fact, one thing will be clear to anyone who likes to listen to sound sense; it is that if there is a strict law applicable to all, without the keeping of which it is impossible to be saved, this law will have to be promulgated in such a way as to leave no-one in doubt of its enactment. In such a matter, the possibility of doubt is a formal negation; and if a single man could be left in ignorance of such a law, the law would not be divine.

There are no two ways of being a decent man; and does religion matter less than probity? Certainly not, and this is why there has never been anything but one religion in the world. The schisms are only appearances. It is the fanaticism of the ignorant who mutually condemn each other which has always been irreligious and horrible.

The true religion is the universal religion; which is why Catholicism has adopted the only name which indicates the truth. Furthermore, this religion maintains orthodoxy in doctrine, the hierarchy of the powers, the efficacy of worship and the genuine magic of ceremonies. In other words it is typical and normal religion, the mother religion to which the Mosaic traditions and the ancient oracles of Hermes rightly belong. In upholding this in the face of the Pope himself if necessary, we shall be more catholic than the Pope and more protestant than Luther when occasion demands.

True religion is the inner light above all else, and religious forms so often multiply and shine with the spectral phosphorescence which is in the outer darkness; but it is necessary to respect the form even with those souls who do not understand the spirit. Science cannot and must not make reprisals against ignorance.

Fanaticism does not know why faith is reasonable, and reason, while recognizing that religion is essential, has a perfect understanding of how and why superstition is wrong.

The whole Christian and Catholic religion is based on the doctrine of grace, that is to say of free gift. Freely you have received, freely give, says Saint Paul. Religion is essentially a charitable institution. The Church is a house of refuge for the outcasts of philosophy. We may leave her, but we must never attack her. The poor who make do without public assistance have not earned themselves the right to sneer at it. The man who lives uprightly without religion deprives himself of tremendous assistance, but he is not setting himself against God. Free gifts are not replaced by punishments if we refuse them, and God is not a usurer who makes men pay interest on what they have not borrowed. Men need religion, but religion does not need men. Those who do not acknowledge the law, says Saint Paul, will be judged without the law. Now, he is not speaking here of the natural law, but of the religious law or, to be more precise, of the sacerdotal ordinances.

Beyond these truths so benign and pure, there is nothing else but that outer darkness where those are wailing whom a misconstrued religion cannot console, and where the sectarians who take hate for love are gnashing their teeth at one another.

One day, Saint Theresa had a tremendous vision. It seemed to her that she was in Hell and that she was immured within huge walls which were closing in around her in the vain attempt to suffocate her. These walls were quite tangible and have often led us to muse on that menacing saying of Christ about 'the outer darkness'. Imagine a soul which, through hatred of the light, has blinded itself like Oedipus; it has resisted all the charms of life and has always repulsed life as it has repulsed light. Here it is, hurled beyond the influence of the worlds and the brightness of the suns. It is alone in the immense darkness, where it must dwell by itself and with the other wilfully blind who resemble it, for ever. It is fixed in the shadow and suffers an eternal suffocation in the night. It seems to it that everything has been destroyed except its own sufferings, which could fill infinity.

What misery! To have had the capacity for understanding and to have persisted in the idiocy of a senseless creed! To have been able to love and to have allowed the heart to wither! Oh, just for an hour or even one minute of the most imperfect pleasures or the most fleeting loves! just a little air! A little sun! or even the moonlight and dancing on the green! A drop of life or less than a drop -- a tear! And an implacable eternity replies: What is this talk of tears: you cannot even cry! Tears are the dew of life and the oozing of the sap of love; you have exiled yourself in your egotism and have walled yourself up in death.

Ah! you wanted to be holier than God! Ah! you spat in the face of your mother, the chaste and divine nature! Ah! you have spoken ill of science, of intelligence and progress! Ah, you believed that eternal life meant looking like a corpse and dessicating oneself like a mummy! Now you are what you have made yourself, rejoice in the eternity which you have chosen -- in peace! But no, you poor people, those you call the sinners and the damned are coming to save you. We shall intensify the light, we shall pierce your wall, we shall tear you from your inertia. A swarm of cupids, or if you prefer, a legion of angels (they are made in the same way) shall spiral around you and drag you forth in festoons of flowers; and you shall protest in vain, like Mephistopheles in that marvellous philosophical drama by Goethe. In spite of yourselves, your restrictions and your pale faces, you will revive, you will love, you will know, you will see, and you will come to dance the infernal jig of Faust with us on the rubble of the last cloister!

Happy in the time of Jesus were those who wept! Happy, now, are those who can laugh, because laughter is the attribute of man, as the great prophet of the Renaissance, Rabelais, said. Laughter is forbearance; laughter is philosophy. The heavens clear when they laugh, and the great secret of divine omnipotence resides in an eternal smile!

  • Eliphas Levi

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