Behind the veil of all the hieratic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the shadows and the strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of the old temples, and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, in the monstrous or marvellous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the strange emblems of our old books of alchemy, in the ceremonies at reception practised by all mysterious societies, traces are found of a doctrine which is everywhere the same, and everywhere carefully concealed.
Occult philosophy seems to have been the nurse or god-mother of all intellectual forces, the key of all divine obscurities, and the absolute queen of society in those ages when it was reserved exclusively for the education of priests and of kings.
It reigned in Persia with the magi, who at length perished, as perish all masters of the world, because they abused their power; it endowed India with the most wonderful traditions, and with an incredible wealth of poesy, grace, and terror in its emblems; it civilised Greece to the music of the lyre of Orpheus; it concealed the principles of all the sciences and of all human intellectual progress in the bold calculations of Pythagoras; fable abounded in its miracles, and history, attempting to appreciate this unknown power, became confused with fable; it shook or strengthened empires by its oracles, caused tyrants to tremble on their thrones, and governed all minds, either by curiosity or by fear.
For this science, said the crowd, there is nothing impossible; it commands the elements, knows the language of the stars, and directs the planetary courses; when it speaks, the moon falls blood-red from heaven; the dead rise in their graves and articulate ominous words as the night wind blows through their skulls.
Mistress of love or of hate, the science can dispense paradise or hell at its pleasure to human hearts; it disposes of all forms, and distributes beauty or ugliness; with the rod of Circe it alternately changes men into brutes and animals into men; it even disposes of life or death, and can confer wealth on its adepts by the transmutation of metals and immortality by its quintessence or elixir compounded of gold and light.
Such was magic from Zoroaster to Manes, from Orpheus to Apollonius of Tyana, when positive Christianity, at length victorious over the brilliant dreams and titanic aspirations of the Alexandrian school, dared to launch its anathemas publicly against this philosophy, and thus forced it to become more occult and mysterious than ever.
Moreover, strange and alarming rumours began to circulate concerning initiates or adepts; these men were everywhere surrounded by an ominous influence; they killed or drove mad those who allowed themselves to be carried away by their honeyed eloquence or by the fame of their learning. The women whom they loved became Stryges, their children vanished at their nocturnal meetings, and men whispered shudderingly and in secret of bloody orgies and abominable banquets. Bones had been found in the crypts of ancient temples, shrieks had been heard in the night, harvests withered and herds sickened when the magician passed by. Diseases which defied medical skill at times appeared in the world, and always, it was said, beneath the envenomed glance of the adepts.
At length an universal cry of execration went up against magic, the mere name became a crime, and the common hatred was formulated in this sentence: “Magicians to the flames!” as it was shouted some centuries earlier: “To the lions with the Christians!” Now the multitude never conspires except against real powers; it possesses not the knowledge of what is true, but it has the instinct of what is strong.
It remained for the eighteenth century to deride both Christians and magic, while infatuated with the homilies of Rousseau and the illusions of Cagliostro.
Science, notwithstanding, is at the basis of magic, as at the foundation of Christianity there is love, and in the Gospel symbols we see the Word incarnate adored in his cradle by three magi, led thither by a star (the triad and the sign of the microcosm), and receiving their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, a second mysterious triplicity, under which emblem the highest secrets of the Kabbalah are allegorically contained. Christianity owes, therefore, no hatred to magic, but human ignorance has ever stood in fear of the unknown.
The science was driven into hiding to escape the impassioned assaults of a blind love; it clothed itself with new hieroglyphics, dissimulated its labours, denied its hopes. Then it was that the jargon of alchemy was created, a permanent deception for the vulgar, a living language only for the true disciple of Hermes.
Extraordinary fact! Among the sacred books of the Christians there are two works which the infallible Church makes no claim to understand and has never attempted to explain; these are the prophecy of Ezekiel and the Apocalypse,1 two Kabbalistic Keys assuredly reserved in heaven for the commentaries of magician Kings, books sealed with seven seals for faithful believers, yet perfectly plain to an initiated infidel of the occult sciences.
There is also another book, but, although it is popular in a sense and may be found everywhere, this is of all most occult and unknown, because it has the key of all others; it is in public evidence without being known to the public; no one dreams of seeking it where it actually is, and elsewhere it is lost labour to look for it. This book, possibly anterior to that of Enoch, has never been translated, but is still preserved unmutilated in primeval characters, on detached leaves, like the tablets of the ancients.
A distinguished scholar has revealed, though no one has observed it, not indeed its secret, but its antiquity and singular preservation; another scholar, but of a mind more fantastic than judicious, passed thirty years in the study of this book, and has merely suspected its whole importance.
It is, in fact, a monumental and extraordinary work, strong and simple as the architecture of the pyramids, and consequently enduring like those—a book which is the sum of all the sciences, which can resolve all problems by its infinite combinations, which speaks by evoking thought, is the inspirer and regulator of all possible conceptions, the masterpiece perhaps of the human mind, assuredly one of the finest things bequeathed to us by antiquity, an universal key, the name of which has been explained and comprehended only by the learned Guillaume Postel, an unique text, whereof the initial characters alone exalted the devout spirit of Saint Martin into ecstasy, and might have restored reason to the sublime and unfortunate Swedenborg.
We shall speak of this book later on, and its mathematical and precise explanation will be the complement and crown of our conscientious undertaking.
The original alliance of Christianity and the science of the magi, once it is thoroughly demonstrated, will be a discovery of no second-rate importance, and we question not that the serious study of magic and the Kabbalah will lead earnest minds to the reconciliation of science and dogma, of reason and faith, heretofore regarded as impossible.
We have said that the Church, whose special office is the custody of the Keys, does not pretend to possess those of the Apocalypse or of Ezekiel. In the opinion of Christians the scientific and magical clavicles of Solomon are lost; yet, at the same time, it is certain that, in the domain of intelligence ruled by the Word, nothing which has been written can perish; things which men cease to understand simply cease to exist for them, at least in the order of the Word, and they enter then into the domain of enigma and mystery.
Furthermore, the antipathy, and even open war, of the official church against all that belongs to the realm of magic, which is a kind of personal and emancipated priesthood, is allied with necessary and even with inherent causes in the social and hierarchic constitution of Christian sacerdotalism.2
The Church ignores magic—for she must either ignore it or perish, as we shall prove later on; yet she does not the less recognise that her mysterious founder was saluted in his cradle by the three magi—that is to say, by the hieratic ambassadors of the three parts of the known world and the three analogical worlds of occult philosophy.
In the school of Alexandria, magic and Christianity almost joined hands under the auspices of Ammonius Saccas and of Plato; the doctrine of Hermes is found almost in its entirety in the writings attributed to Denis the Areopagite; and Synesius sketched the plan of a treatise on dreams, which was later on to be annotated by Cardan, and composed hymns which might have served for the liturgy of the Church of Swedenborg, could a church of the illuminated possess a liturgy.
With this period of fiery abstractions and impassioned warfare of words there must also be connected the philosophic reign of Julian, called the Apostate because in his youth he made an unwilling profession of Christianity.
Everyone is aware that Julian was sufficiently wrongheaded to be an unseasonable hero of Plutarch, and was, if one may say so, the Don Quixote of Roman Chivalry; but what most people do not know is that Julian was one of the illuminated and an initiate of the first order; that he believed in the unity of God and in the universal doctrine of the Trinity; that, in a word, he regretted nothing of the old world but its magnificent symbols and its exceedingly gracious images.
Julian was not a pagan; he was a Gnostic allured by the allegories of Greek polytheism, who had the misfortune to find the name of Jesus Christ less sonorous than that of Orpheus.
The Emperor personally paid for the academical tastes of the philosopher and rhetorician, and after affording himself the spectacle and satisfaction of expiring like Epaminondas with the periods of Cato, he had in public opinion, already thoroughly Christianised, anathemas for his funeral oration and a scornful epithet for his ultimate celebrity.
Let us skip the little men and small matters of the Bas-Empire,3 and pass on to the Middle Ages.
… Stay, take this book! Glance at the seventh page, then seat yourself on the mantle I am spreading, and let each of us cover our eyes with one of its corners. … Your head swims, does it not, and the earth seems to fly beneath your feet? Hold tightly, and do not look around. … The vertigo ceases; we are here.
Stand up and open your eyes, but take care before all things to make no Christian sign and to pronounce no Christian words.
We are in a landscape of Salvator Rosa, a troubled wilderness which seems resting after a storm; there is no moon in the sky, but you can distinguish little stars gleaming in the brushwood, and you can hear about you the slow flight of great birds, who seem to whisper strange oracles as they pass.
Let us approach silently that cross-road among the rocks.
A harsh, funereal trumpet winds suddenly, and black torches flare up on every side. A tumultuous throng is surging round a vacant throne; all look and wait. Suddenly they cast themselves on the ground. A goat-headed prince bounds forward among them; he ascends the throne, turns, and by assuming a stooping posture, presents to the assembly a human face, which, carrying black torches, every one comes forward to salute and to kiss. With a hoarse laugh he recovers an upright position, and then distributes gold, secret instructions, occult medicines, and poisons to his faithful bondsmen.
Meanwhile, fires are lighted of fern and alder, piled over with human bones and the fat of executed criminals. Druidesses crowned with wild parsley and vervain immolate unbaptised children with golden knives and prepare horrible love-feasts. Tables are spread, masked men seat themselves by half-nude females, and a Bacchanalian orgie begins; there is nothing missing but salt, the symbol of wisdom and immortality. Wine flows in streams, leaving stains like blood; obscene talk and fond caresses begin, and presently the whole assembly is drunk with wine, with pleasure, with crime, and singing. They rise, a disordered throng, and hasten to form infernal dances.
… Then come all legendary monsters, all phantoms of nightmare; enormous toads play inverted flutes and blow with their paws on their flanks; limping scarabaei mingle in the dance; crabs play the castanets; crocodiles beat time on their scales; elephants and mammoths appear habited like Cupids and foot it in the ring; finally, the giddy circles break up and scatter on all sides. … Every yelling dancer drags away a dishevelled female. … Lamps and candles formed of human fat go out smoking in the darkness. … Cries are heard here and there, mingled with peals of laughter, blasphemies, and rattlings of the throat.
Come, rouse yourself, do not make the sign of the cross! See, I have brought you home; you are in your own bed, somewhat worn-out, possibly a trifle shattered, by your night’s journey and dissipation; but you have witnessed something of which everyone talks without knowledge; you have been initiated into secrets no less terrible than the grotto of Triphonius; you have been present at the Sabbath. It remains for you now to preserve your reason, to have a wholesome dread of the law, and to keep at a respectful distance from the Church and her faggots.
Would you care, as a change, to behold something less fantastic, more real, and also more truly terrible? You shall assist at the execution of Jacques de Molay and his accomplices or his brethren in martyrdom. … Do not, however, be misled, confuse not the guilty and the innocent! Did the Templars really adore Baphomet? Did they offer a shameful salutation to the buttocks of the goat of Mendes? What was actually this secret and potent association which imperilled Church and State, and was thus destroyed unheard? Judge nothing lightly; they are guilty of a great crime; they have allowed the sanctuary of antique initiation to be entered by the profane. By them for a second time have the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil been gathered and shared, so that they might become the masters of the world. The sentence which condemns them has a higher and earlier origin than the tribunal of pope or king: “On the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” said God Himself, as we see in the book of Genesis.
What is taking place in the world, and why do priests and potentates tremble? What secret power threatens tiaras and crowns? A few madmen are roaming from land to land, concealing, as they say, the philosophical stone under their ragged vesture. They can change earth into gold, and they are without food or lodging! Their brows are encircled by an aureole of glory and by a shadow of ignominy!
One has discovered the universal science and goes vainly seeking death to escape the agonies of his triumph—he is the Majorcan Raymond Lully. Another heals imaginary diseases by fantastic remedies, giving a formal denial in advance to the proverb which enforces the futility of a cautery on a wooden leg—he is the marvellous Paracelsus, always drunk and always lucid, like the heroes of Rabelais.
Here is Guillaume Postel writing naively to the fathers of the Council of Trent, informing them that he has discovered the absolute doctrine, hidden from the foundation of the world, and is longing to share it with them. The council does not concern itself with the maniac, does not condescend to condemn him, and proceeds to examine the weighty questions of efficacious grace and sufficing grace.
He whom we see perishing poor and abandoned is Cornelius Agrippa, less of a magician than any, though the vulgar persist in regarding him as a more potent sorcerer than all because he was sometimes a cynic and mystifier.
What secret do these men bear with them to their tomb? Why are they wondered at without being understood? Why are they condemned unheard? Why are they initiates of those terrific secret sciences of which the Church and society are afraid? Why are they acquainted with things of which others know nothing? Why do they conceal what all men burn to know? Why are they invested with a dread and unknown power?
The occult sciences! Magic! These words will reveal all and give food for further thought! De omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis.4
But what, as a fact, was this magic? What was the power of these men who were at once so proud and so persecuted? If they were really strong, why did they not overcome their enemies? But if they were weak and foolish, why did people honour them by fearing them? Does magic exist? Is there an occult knowledge which is truly a power, which works wonders fit to be compared with the miracles of authorised religions?
To these two palmary questions we make answer by an affirmation and a book. The book shall justify the affirmation, and the affirmation is this. Yes, there existed in the past, and there exists in the present, a potent and real magic; yes, all that legends have said of it is true, but, in contrariety to what commonly happens, popular exaggerations are, in this case, not only beside but below the truth.
There is indeed a formidable secret, the revelation of which has once already transformed the world, as testified in Egyptian religious tradition, symbolically summarised by Moses at the beginning of Genesis. This secret constitutes the fatal science of good and evil, and the consequence of its revelation is death. Moses depicts it under the figure of a tree which is in the centre of the Terrestrial Paradise, is in proximity to the tree of life and has a radical connection therewith; at the foot of this tree is the source of the four mysterious rivers; it is guarded by the sword of fire and by the four figures of the Biblical sphinx, the Cherubim of Ezekiel. … Here I must pause, and I fear already that I have said too much.
Yes, there is one sole, universal, and imperishable dogma, strong as the supreme reason; simple, like all that is great; intelligible, like all that is universally and absolutely true; and this dogma has been the parent of all others. Yes, there is a science which confers on man powers apparently superhuman; I find them enumerated as follows in a Hebrew manuscript5 of the sixteenth century:—
These are the powers and privileges of the man who holds in his right hand the clavicles of Solomon, and in his left the branch of the blossoming almond.
- א Aleph.—He beholds God face to face, without dying, and converses familiarly with the seven genii who command the entire celestial army.
- ב Beth.—He is above all afflictions and all fears.
- ג Ghimel.—He reigns with all heaven and is served by all hell.
- ד Daleth.—He disposes of his own health and life and can equally influence that of others.
- ה He.—He can neither be surprised by misfortune, nor overwhelmed by disasters, nor conquered by his enemies.
- ו Vau.—He knows the reason of the past, present, and future.
- ז Dzain.—He possesses the secret of the resurrection of the dead and the key of immortality.
Such are the seven chief privileges, and those which rank next are as follows:
- ח Cheth.—To find the philosophical stone.
- ט Teth.—To enjoy the universal medicine.
- י Iod.—To be acquainted with the laws of perpetual motion and in a position to demonstrate the quadrature of the circle.
- כ Caph.—To change into gold not only all metals, but also the earth itself, and even the refuse of the earth.
- ל Lamed.—To subdue the most ferocious animals and be able to pronounce the words which paralyse and charm serpents.
- מ Mem.—To possess the Ars Notoria which gives the universal science.
- נ Nun.—To speak learnedly on all subjects, without preparation and without study.
These, finally, are the seven least powers of the magus
- ס Samech.—To know at first sight the deep things of the souls of men and the mysteries of the hearts of women.
- ע Gnain.—To force nature to make him free at his pleasure.
- פ Phe.—To foresee all future events which do not depend on a superior free will, or on an undiscernible cause.
- צ Tsade.—To give at once and to all the most efficacious consolations and the most wholesome counsels.
- ק Coph.—To triumph over adversities.
- ר Resch.—To conquer love and hate.
- ש Schin.—To have the secret of wealth, to be always its master and never its slave. To know how to enjoy even poverty and never become abject or miserable.
- ת Tau.—Let us add to these three septenaries that the wise man rules the elements, stills tempests, cures the diseased by his touch, and raises the dead!
At the same time, there are certain things which have been sealed by Solomon with his triple seal. It is enough that the initiates know, and as for others, whether they deride, doubt, or believe, whether they threaten or fear, what matters it to science or to us?”
Such are actually the issues of occult philosophy, and we are in a position to withstand an accusation of insanity or a suspicion of imposture when we affirm that all these privileges are real.
To demonstrate this is the sole end of our work on occult philosophy.
The philosophical stone, the universal medicine, the transmutation of metals, the quadrature of the circle, and the secret of perpetual motion, are thus neither mystifications of science nor dreams of madness.
They are terms which must be understood in their veritable sense; they are expressions of the different applications of one same secret, the several characteristics of one same operation, which is defined in a more comprehensive manner under the name of the great work.
Furthermore, there exists in nature a force which is immeasurably more powerful than steam, and by means of which a single man, who knows how to adapt and direct it, might upset and alter the face of the world.
This force was known to the ancients; it consists in an universal agent having equilibrium for its supreme law, while its direction is concerned immediately with the great arcanum of transcendent magic.
By the direction of this agent it is possible to change the very order of the seasons; to produce at night the phenomena of day; to correspond instantaneously between one extremity of the earth and the other; to see, like Apollonius, what is taking place on the other side of the world; to heal or injure at a distance; to give speech an universal success and reverberation.
This agent, which barely manifests under the uncertain methods of Mesmer’s followers, is precisely that which the adepts of the middle ages denominated the first matter of the great work.
The Gnostics represented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit; it was the object of adoration in the secret rites of the Sabbath and the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the Androgyne of Mendes.
All this will be proved.
Such are the secrets of occult philosophy, such is magic in history; let us now glance at it as it appears in its books and its achievements, in its initiations and its rites.
The key of all magical allegories is found in the tablets we have already mentioned, and these tablets we regard as the work of Hermes.
About this book, which may be called the keystone of the whole edifice of occult science, are grouped innumerable legends which are either its partial translation or its commentary renewed endlessly under a thousand different forms.
Sometimes these ingenious fables combine harmoniously into a great epic which characterises an epoch, though how or why is not clear to the uninitiated.
Thus, the fabulous history of the Golden Fleece both resumes and veils the Hermetic and magical doctrines of Orpheus, and if we recur only to the mysterious poetry of Greece, it is because the sanctuaries of Egypt and India to some extent dismay us by their resources, and leave our choice embarrassed in the midst of such abundant wealth.
We are eager, moreover, to reach the Thebaïd at once, that dread synthesis of all doctrine, past, present, and future, that, so to speak, infinite fable, which comprehends, like the Deity of Orpheus, the two extremities of the cycle of human life.
Extraordinary fact! The seven gates of Thebes, attacked and defended by seven chiefs who have sworn upon the blood of victims, possess the same significance as the seven seals of the sacred book interpreted by seven genii, and assailed by a monster with seven heads, after being opened by a living yet immolated lamb, in the allegorical work of St. John.
The mysterious origin of Oedipus, found suspended from the tree of Cytheron like a bleeding fruit, recalls the symbols of Moses and the narratives of Genesis.
He makes war upon his father, whom he slays without knowing—alarming prophecy of the blind emancipation of reason without science; he then meets with the sphinx—the sphinx, that symbol of symbols, the eternal enigma of the vulgar, the granite pedestal of the science of the sages, the voracious and silent monster whose invariable form expresses the one dogma of the great universal mystery.
How is the tetrad changed into the duad and explained by the triad?
In more common but more emblematic terms, what is that animal which in the morning has four feet, two at noon, and three in the evening?
Philosophically speaking, how does the doctrine of elementary forces produce the dualism of Zoroaster, while it is summed by the triad of Pythagoras and Plato?
What is the ultimate reason of allegories and numbers, the final message of all symbolisms?
Oedipus replies with a simple and terrible word which destroys the sphinx and makes the diviner King of Thebes; the answer to the enigma is Man! … Unfortunate! He has seen too much, and yet with insufficient clearness; he must presently expiate his calamitous and imperfect clairvoyance by a voluntary blindness, and then vanish in the midst of a storm, like all civilisations which may at any time divine the answer to the riddle of the sphinx without grasping its whole import and mystery.
Everything is symbolical and transcendental in this titanic epic of human destinies. The two hostile brethren express the second part of the grand mystery divinely completed by the sacrifice of Antigone; then comes the last war; the brethren slay one another, Capaneus is destroyed by the lightning which he defies, Amphiaraüs is swallowed by the earth, and all these are so many allegories which, by their truth and their grandeur, astonish those who can penetrate their triple hieratic sense. Aeschylus, annotated by Ballanche, gives only a weak notion concerning them, whatever the primeval sublimities of the Greek poet or the beauty of the French critic.
The secret book of antique initiation was not unknown to Homer, who outlines its plan and chief figures on the shield of Achilles, with minute precision. But the gracious fictions of Homer replaced speedily in the popular memory the simple and abstract truths of primeval revelation.
Humanity clung to the form and allowed the idea to be forgotten; signs lost power in their multiplication; magic also at this period became corrupted, and degenerated with the sorcerers of Thessaly into the most profane enchantments.
The crime of Oedipus brought forth its deadly fruits, and the science of good and evil erected evil into a sacrilegious divinity.
Men, weary of the light, took refuge in the shadow of bodily substance; the dream of the void, which is filled by God, soon appeared to be greater than God himself in their eyes, and thus hell was created.
When, in the course of this work, we make use of the consecrated terms God, Heaven, and Hell, let it be thoroughly understood, once for all, that our meaning is as far removed from that which the profane attach to them as initiation is distant from vulgar thought.
Returning to the fable of Oedipus, the crime of the King of Thebes was that he failed to understand the sphinx, that he destroyed the scourge of Thebes without being pure enough to complete the expiation in the name of his people.
The plague, in consequence, avenged speedily the death of the monster, and the King of Thebes, forced to abdicate, sacrificed himself to the terrible manes of the sphinx, more alive and voracious than ever when it had passed from the domain of form into that of idea.
Oedipus divined what was man and he put out his own eyes because he did not see what was God. He divulged half of the great arcanum, and, to save his people, it was necessary for him to bear the remaining half of the terrible secret into exile and the tomb.
After the colossal fable of Oedipus we find the gracious poem of Psyche, which was certainly not invented by Apuleius.
The great magical arcanum reappears here under the figure of a mysterious union between a god and a weak mortal abandoned alone and naked on a rock.
Psyche must remain in ignorance of the secret of her ideal royalty, and if she behold her husband she must lose him.
Here Apuleius commentates and interprets Moses, but did not the Elohim of Israel and the gods of Apuleius both issue from the sanctuaries of Memphis and Thebes?
Psyche is the sister of Eve, or, rather, is Eve spiritualised.
Both desire to know and lose innocence for the honour of the ordeal.
Both deserve to go down into hell, one to bring back the antique box of Pandora, the other to find and to crush the head of the old serpent, who is the symbol of time and of evil.
Both are guilty of the crime which must be expiated by the Prometheus of ancient days and the Lucifer of the Christian legend, the one delivered, the other overcome, by Hercules and by the Saviour.
The great magical secret is, therefore, the lamp and dagger of Psyche, the apple of Eve, the sacred fire of Prometheus, the burning sceptre of Lucifer, but it is also the holy cross of the Redeemer.
To be acquainted with it sufficiently to abuse or divulge it is to deserve all sufferings; to know it as one should know it, namely, to make use of and conceal it, is to be master of the absolute.
Everything is contained in a single word, which consists of four letters; it is the Tetragram of the Hebrews, the AZOT of the alchemists, the Thot of the Bohemians, or the Taro of the Kabbalists.
This word, expressed after so many manners, means God for the profane, man for the philosophers, and imparts to the adepts the final word of human sciences and the key of divine power; but he only can use it who understands the necessity of never revealing it.
Had Oedipus, instead of killing the sphinx, overcome it, harnessed it to his chariot, and thus entered Thebes, he would have been king without incest, without misfortunes, and without exile.
Had Psyche, by meekness and affection, persuaded Love to reveal himself, she would never have lost Love.
Now, Love is one of the mythological images of the great secret and the great agent, because it at once expresses an action and a passion, a void and a plenitude, a shaft and a wound.
The initiates will understand me, and, on account of the profane, I must not speak more clearly.
After the marvellous Golden Ass of Apuleius, we find no more magical epics.
Science, conquered in Alexandria by the fanaticism of the murderers of Hypatia, became Christian, or, rather, concealed itself under Christian veils with Ammonius, Synesius, and the pseudonymous author of the books of Dionysius the Areopagite.
In such times it was needful to excuse miracles by the garb of superstition and science by an unintelligible language.
Hieroglyphic writing was revived; pantacles and characters were invented to summarise an entire doctrine by a sign, a whole sequence of tendencies and revelations in a word.
What was the end of the aspirants to knowledge?
They sought the secret of the great work, or the philosophical stone, or the perpetual motion, or the quadrature of the circle, or the universal medicine—formulas which often saved them from persecution and hatred by causing them to be taxed with madness, and all signifying one of the phases of the great magical secret, as we shall shew later on.
This absence of epics continues till our Romance of the Rose; but the rose-symbol, which expresses also the mysterious and magical sense of Dante’s poem, is borrowed from the transcendent Kabbalah, and it is time that we should have recourse to this immense and concealed source of universal philosophy.
The Bible, with all its allegories, gives expression to the religious knowledge of the Hebrews in only an incomplete and veiled manner.
The book which we have mentioned, the hieratic characters of which we shall explain subsequently, that book which Guillaume Postel names the Genesis of Enoch, certainly existed before Moses and the prophets, whose doctrine, fundamentally identical with that of the ancient Egyptians, had also its exotericism and its veils.
When Moses spoke to the people, says the sacred book allegorically, he placed a veil over his face, and he removed it when addressing God; this accounts for the alleged Biblical absurdities which so exercised the satirical powers of Voltaire.
The books were only written as memorials of tradition, and in symbols that were unintelligible for the profane.
The Pentateuch and the poems of the prophets were, moreover, elementary works, alike in doctrine, ethics, and liturgy; the true secret and traditional philosophy was not committed to writing until a later period, and under veils even less transparent.
Thus arose a second and unknown Bible, or rather one which was not comprehended by Christians, a storehouse, so they say, of monstrous absurdities, for, in this case, believers, confounded in the same ignorance, speak the language of sceptics; a monument, as we affirm, which comprises all that philosophical genius and religious genius have ever accomplished or imagined in the order of the sublime; a treasure encompassed by thorns; a diamond concealed in a rude and opaque stone: our readers will have already guessed that we refer to the Talmud.
How strange is the destiny of the Jews, those scapegoats, martyrs, and saviours of the world, a people full of vitality, a bold and hardy race, which persecutions have always preserved intact, because it has not yet accomplished its mission!
Do not our apostolical traditions declare that, after the decline of faith among the Gentiles, salvation shall again come forth out of the house of Jacob, and that then the crucified Jew who is adored by the Christians will give the empire of the world into the hands of God his Father?
On penetrating into the sanctuary of the Kabbalah one is seized with admiration at the sight of a doctrine so logical, so simple, and, at the same time, so absolute.
The essential union of ideas and signs; the consecration of the most fundamental realities by primitive characters; the trinity of words, letters, and numbers; a philosophy simple as the alphabet, profound and infinite as the Word; theorems more complete and luminous than those of Pythagoras; a theology which may be summed up on the fingers; an infinite which can be held in the hollow of an infant’s hand; ten figures and twenty-two letters, a triangle, a square, and a circle; these are the entire elements of the Kabbalah.
These are the component principles of the written Word, reflection of that spoken Word which created the world!
All truly dogmatic religions have issued from the Kabbalah and return therein; whatsoever is grand or scientific in the religious dreams of all the illuminated, Jacob Boehme, Swedenborg, Saint Martin, &c., is borrowed from the Kabbalah; all masonic associations owe to it their secrets and their symbols.
The Kabbalah alone consecrates the alliance of universal reason and the divine Word; it establishes, by the counterpoise of two forces apparently opposed, the eternal balance of being; it only reconciles reason with faith, power with liberty, science with mystery; it has the keys of the present, past, and future!
To become initiated into the Kabbalah, it is insufficient to read and to meditate upon the writings of Reuchlin, Galatinus, Kircher, or Picus de Mirandola; it is necessary to study and to understand the Hebrew writers in the collection of Pistorius, the Septer Jetzirah above all; it is necessary also to master the great book Zohar, read attentively in the collection of 1684, entitled Kabbala Denudata, the treatise of Kabbalistic Pneumatics, and that of the Revolution of Souls; and afterwards to enter boldly into the luminous darkness of the whole dogmatic and allegorical body of the Talmud.
Then we shall be in a position to understand Guillaume Postel, and can admit secretly that apart from his very premature and over-generous dreams about the emancipation of women, this celebrated, learned, illuminated man could not have been so mad as is pretended by those who have not read him.
We have sketched rapidly the history of occult philosophy; we have indicated its sources and analysed in a few words its principal books.
This work refers only to the science, but magic, or, rather, magical power, is composed of two things, a science and a force; without the force the science is nothing, or, rather, it is a danger.
To give knowledge to power alone, such is the supreme law of initiations.
Hence did the Great Revealer say: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent only shall carry it away.”
The door of truth is closed like the sanctuary of a virgin; he must be a man who would enter.
All miracles are promised to faith, and what is faith except the audacity of a will which does not hesitate in the darkness, but advances towards the light in spite of all ordeals, and surmounting all obstacles?
It is unnecessary to repeat here the history of ancient initiations; the more dangerous and terrible they were, the greater was their efficacy.
Hence, in those days, the world had men to govern and instruct it.
The sacerdotal art and the royal art consisted above all in ordeals of courage, discretion, and will.
It was a novitiate similar to that of those priests who, under the name of Jesuits, are so unpopular at the present day, but would govern the world, notwithstanding, had they a truly wise and intelligent chief.
After passing our life in the search after the absolute in religion, science, and justice; after turning in the circle of Faust, we have reached the primal doctrine and the first book of humanity.
There we pause, there we have discovered the secret of human omnipotence and indefinite progress, the key of all symbolisms, the first and final doctrine, and we have come to understand what was meant by that expression so often made use of in the Gospel—the Kingdom of God.
To provide a fixed point as a fulcrum for human activity is to solve the problem of Archimedes by realising the application of his famous lever.
This it is which was accomplished by the great initiators who have electrified the world, and they could not have done so except by means of the great and incommunicable secret.
However, as a guarantee of its renewed youth, the symbolical phoenix never reappeared before the eyes of the world without having solemnly consumed the remains and evidences of his previous life.
It is thus that Moses caused all those to perish in the desert who could have known Egypt and her mysteries; thus, at Ephesus, St. Paul burnt all books which treated of the occult sciences; thus, finally, the French Revolution, daughter of the great Johannite Orient and the ashes of the Templars, spoliated the churches and blasphemed the allegories of the divine cultus.
But all doctrines and all revivals proscribe magic, and condemn its mysteries to the flames and to oblivion.
The reason is that each cultus or philosophy which comes into the world is a Benjamin of humanity which lives by the death of its mother; it is because the symbolical serpent seems ever devouring its own tail; it is because, as essential condition of existence, a void is necessary to every plenitude, space for every dimension, an affirmation for each negation; it is the eternal realisation of the phoenix allegory.
Two illustrious scholars have already preceded me along the path I am travelling, but they have, so to speak, spent the dark night therein.
I refer to Volney and Dupuis, to Dupuis above all, whose immense erudition has produced only a negative work, for in the origin of all religions he has seen nothing but astronomy, taking thus the symbolic cycle for doctrine and the calendar for legend.
He was deficient in one branch of knowledge, that of true magic, which comprises the secrets of the Kabbalah.
Dupuis passed through the antique sanctuaries like the prophet Ezekiel over the plain strewn with bones, and only understood death, for want of that word which collects the virtue of the four winds, and can make a living people of all the vast ossuary, by crying to the ancient symbols: “Arise! Take up a new form and walk!”
Hence the hour has come when we must have the boldness to attempt what no one has dared to perform previously.
Like Julian, we would rebuild the temple, and in so doing we do not believe that we shall be belying a wisdom that we adore, which also Julian would himself have been worthy to adore, had the rancorous and fanatical doctors of his period permitted him to understand it.
For us the temple has two pillars, on one of which Christianity has inscribed its name.
We have, therefore, no wish to attack Christianity; far from it, we seek to explain and accomplish it.
Intelligence and will have alternately exercised their power in the world; religion and philosophy are still at war in our own days, but they must end by agreeing.
The provisional object of Christianity was to establish, by obedience and faith, a supernatural or religious equality among men, and to immobilise intelligence by faith, so as to provide a fulcrum for virtue which came for the destruction of the aristocracy of science, or, rather, to replace that aristocracy already destroyed.
Philosophy, on the contrary, has laboured to bring back men by liberty and reason to natural inequality, and to substitute astuteness for virtue by inaugurating the reign of industry.
Neither of the two operations has proved complete and adequate, neither has brought men to perfection and felicity.
What is now dreamed, almost without daring to hope for it, is an alliance between these two forces so long regarded as contrary, and there is good ground for desiring their union, for these two great powers of the human soul are no more opposed to one another than the sex of man is opposed to that of woman; undoubtedly they differ, but their apparently contrary dispositions come only from their aptitude to meet and unite.
“There is no less proposed, therefore, than an universal solution of all problems?”
No doubt, since we are concerned with explaining the philosophical stone, perpetual motion, the secret of the great work and of the universal medicine.
We shall be accused of insanity, like the divine Paracelsus, or of charlatanism, like the great and unfortunate Agrippa.
If the pyre of Urban Grandier be extinguished, the sullen proscriptions of silence and of calumny remain.
We do not brave but are resigned to them.
We have not sought ourselves the publication of this book, and we believe that if the time be come to produce speech, it will be produced by us or by others.
We shall therefore remain calm and wait.
Our work has two parts; in the one we establish the Kabbalistic and magical doctrine in its entirety; the other is consecrated to the cultus, that is, to ceremonial magic.
The one is that which the ancient sages termed the clavicle, the other that which rural people still call the grimoire.
The numbers and subjects of the chapters, which correspond in both parts, are in no sense arbitrary, and are all indicated in the great universal key, of which we give for the first time a complete and adequate explanation.
Let this work now go its way where it wills, and become what Providence determines; it is finished, and we believe it to be enduring, because it is strong, like all that is reasonable and conscientious.
[Better known today as Revelation] ↩
[sacerdotalism—Defn: The system, style, spirit, or character, of a priesthood, or sacerdotal order; devotion to the interests of the sacerdotal order. sacerdotal—Defn: Of or pertaining to priests, or to the order of priests; relating to the priesthood; priestly; as, sacerdotal dignity; sacerdotal functions.] ↩
[Bas-Empire—”Late Empire”; post-Constantine Rome; Opposed to Haut-Empire, “Early Empire”, pre-Constantine Rome] ↩
[De omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis—”Concerning everything knowable, and certain others”] ↩
[There is obvious similarity to Aphorism 24 of Arbatel, which was published 1575, however it was in Latin and doesn’t mention the letters] ↩