The great magical agent, by us termed the astral light, by others the soul of the earth, and designated by old chemists under the names of Azoth and Magnesia, this occult, unique, and indubitable force, is the key of all empire, the secret of all power; it is the winged dragon of Medea, the serpent of the Edenic mystery; it is the universal glass of visions, the bond of sympathies, the source of love, prophecy, and glory.
To know how to avail one’s self of this agent is to be the trustee of God’s own power; all real, effective magic, all occult force is there, and its demonstration is the sole end of all genuine books of science. To possess one’s self of the great magical agent there are two operations necessary—to concentrate and project, or, in other words, to fix and to move. Fixity has been provided as the basis and guarantee of movement by the Author of all things; the magus must go to work in like manner.
It is said that enthusiasm is contagious—and why? Because it cannot be produced in the absence of collective faith. Faith produces faith; to believe is to have a reason for willing; to will with reason is to will with power—not, I say, with an mite, but with an indefinite power. What operates in the intellectual and moral world obtains still more in the physical, and when Archimedes was in want of a lever to move the world, what he sought was simply the great magical arcanum.
One arm of the androgyne figure1 of Heinrich2 Khunrath bore the word COAGULA and the other SOLVE. To collect and diffuse are nature’s two words but after what manner can we accomplish these operations with the astral light or soul of the world?
Concentration is by isolation and distribution by the magical chain. Isolation consists in absolute independence for thought, complete liberty for the heart, and perfect continence for the senses. Every man who is possessed by prejudices and fears, every passionate person who is slave of his passions, is incapable of concentrating or coagulating, according to the expression of Khunrath, the astral light or soul of the earth.
All true adepts have been independent even amidst torture, sober and chaste till death. The explanation of such anomaly is this—in order to dispose of a force, you must not be surprised by this force in a way that it may dispose of you.
But then, cry out those who seek only in magic for a method of inordinately satisfying the lusts of nature, what good is a power which must not be used for our own satisfaction? Unhappy creatures who ask, if I told you, how could you grasp it? Are pearls nothing because they are worthless to the horde of Epicurus? Did not Curtius prefer the government of those who had gold than its possession by himself? Must we not be something removed from the common man when we almost pretend to be God?
Moreover, I grieve to deject or discourage you, but I am not devising the transcendental sciences; I teach them, defining their immutable necessities in the presentation of their primary and most inexorable conditions. Pythagoras was a free, sober, and chaste man; Apollonius of Tyana and Julius Caesar were both of repellent austerity; the sex of Paracelsus was suspected, so foreign was he to the weakness of love; Raymond Lully carried the severity of life to the most exalted point of asceticism; Jerome Cardan exaggerated the practice of fasting till he nearly perished of starvation, if we may accept tradition; Agrippa, poor and buffeted from town to town, almost died of misery rather than yield to the caprice of a princess who insulted the liberty of science.
What then made the felicity of these men? The knowledge of great secrets and the consciousness of power. It was sufficient for those great souls. Must one be like unto them in order to know what they knew? Assuredly not, and the existence of this book is perhaps a case in point; but in order to do what they did, it is absolutely necessary to take the means which they took.
But what did they actually accomplish? They astonished and subdued the world; they reigned more truly than kings.
Magic is an instrument of divine goodness or demoniac pride, but it is the annihilation of earthly joys and the pleasures of mortal life.
Why study it? ask the luxurious. Merely to know it and possibly after to learn mistrust of stupid unbelief or puerile credulity. Men of pleasure, and half of these I count for so many women, is not gratified curiosity highly pleasurable? Read therefore without fear, you will not be magicians against your will.
Readiness for absolute renunciation is, moreover, necessary only in order to establish universal currents and transform the face of the world; there are relative magical operations, limited to a certain circle, which do not need such heroic virtues. We can act upon passions by passions, determine sympathies or antipathies, hurt even and heal, without possessing the omnipotence of the magus; in this case, however, we must realise the risk of a reaction in proportion to the action, to which we may easily fall a victim. All this will be explained in our Ritual.3
To make the magic chain is to establish a magnetic current which becomes stronger in proportion to the extent of the chain. We shall see in the Ritual how these currents can be produced, and what are the various modes of forming the chain. Mesmer’s trough was an exceedingly imperfect magic chain; several great circles of illuminati in different northern countries possess more potent chains.
Even that association of Catholic priests, celebrated for their occult power and their unpopularity, is established upon the plan and follows the conditions of the most potent magical chains, and herein is the secret of their force, which they attribute solely to the grace or will of God, a vulgar and cheap solution for every mystery of power in influence or attraction.
All enthusiasm propagated in a society by a series of communications and practices in common produces a magnetic current, and continues or increases by the current. The action of the current is to carry away and often to exalt beyond measure persons who are impressionable and weak, nervous organisations, temperaments inclined to hysteria or hallucination. Such people soon become powerful vehicles of magical force and efficiently project the astral light in the direction of the current itself; opposition at such a time to the manifestations of the force is, to some extent, a struggle with fatality.
When the youthful Pharisee Saul, or Schôl, threw himself, with all the fanaticism and all the determination of a sectarian, across the aggressive line of Christianity, he unconsciously placed himself at the mercy of a power against which he thought to prevail, and hence he was struck down by a formidable magnetic flash, doubtless the more instantaneous by reason of the combined effect of cerebral congestion and sunstroke. The conversion of the young Israelite, Alphonsus of Ratisbonne, is a contemporary fact which is absolutely of the same nature. We are acquainted with a sect of enthusiasts whom it is common to deride at a distance, and to join, despite one’s self, as soon as they are approached, even with a hostile intention.
I will go further, and affirm that magical circles and magnetic currents establish themselves, and have an influence, according to fatal laws, upon those on whom they can act. Each one of us is drawn within a circle of relations which constitutes his world, and to the influence of which he is made subject.
The lawgiver of the French Revolution, that man whom the most spiritual nation in the whole world acknowledged as the incarnation of human reason, Jean Jacques Rousseau, was drawn into the most lamentable action of his life, the desertion of his children, by the magnetic influence of a libertine circle and a magical current of table-d’hôte. He describes it simply and ingenuously in his Confessions, but it is a fact which has remained unobserved. Great circles very often make great men, and vice-versâ.
There are no unrecognised geniuses, there are eccentric men, and the term would seem to have been invented by an adept. The man who is eccentric in his genius is one who attempts to form a circle by combating the central attractive force of established chains and currents. It is his destiny to be broken or to succeed.
Now, what is the twofold condition of success in such a case? A central point of stability and a persevering circular action of initiative. The man of genius is one who has discovered a real law, and is thereby possessed of an invincible, active, and grinding power. He may die in the midst of his work, but that which he has willed comes to pass, in spite of his death, and is indeed often ensured thereby, because death is a veritable assumption for genius. “When I shall be lifted up from the earth,” said the greatest of the initiators, “I will draw all things after me.”
The law of magnetic currents is that of the movement of the astral light itself, which is always double, and augments in an opposite sense. A great action invariably paves the way for a reaction of equal magnitude, and the secret of phenomenal successes consists entirely in the foreknowledge of reactions.
Thus did Chateaubriand, penetrated with disgust at the saturnalia of the revolution, foresee and prepare the immense success of his “Genius of Christianity.” To oppose one’s self to a current at the beginning of its revolution is to court being destroyed by that current, like the great and unfortunate Emperor Julian; to oppose one’s self to a current which has run its round is to take the lead of a contrary current. The great man is he who comes seasonably and knows how to innovate opportunely.
In the days of the apostles, Voltaire would have found no echo for his utterances, and might have been merely an ingenious parasite at the banquets of Trimalcyon. Now, at the epoch wherein we live, everything is ripe for a fresh outburst of evangelical zeal and Christian self-devotion, precisely by reason of the prevailing general disillusion, egoistic positivism, and public cynicism of the coarsest interests.
The success of certain books and the mystical tendencies of minds are unequivocal symptoms of this widespread disposition. We restore and we build churches only to realise more keenly that we are void of belief, only to long the more for it; once more does the whole world await its Messiah, and he cannot tarry in his coming. Let a man, for example, come forward, who by rank or by fortune is placed in an exalted position—a pope, a king, even a Jewish millionaire—and let this man publicly and solemnly sacrifice all his material interests for the weal of humanity; let him make himself the saviour of the poor, the disseminator, and even the victim, of doctrines of renunciation and charity, and he will draw round him an immense following; he will accomplish a complete moral revolution in the world.
But the high place is before all things necessary for such a personage, because, in these days of meanness and trickery, any Word issuing from the lower ranks is suspected of interested ambition and imposture. Ye, then, who are nothing, ye who possess nothing, aspire not to be apostles or messiahs. If you have faith, and would act in accordance therewith, get possession, in the first place, of the means of action, which are the influence of rank and the prestige of fortune. In olden times gold was manufactured by science; nowadays science must be remade by gold. We have fixed the volatile, and we must now volatilise the fixed—in other words, we have materialised spirit, and we must now spiritualise matter.
The most sublime utterance now passes unheeded if it goes forth without the
guarantee of a name—that is to say, of a success which represents a material
value. What is the worth of a manuscript? That of the author’s signature among
the booksellers? That established reputation known as Alexander Dumas et
We are in the age of acquired positions, where every one is appraised according to his social and commercial standing. Unlimited freedom of speech has produced such a strife of words that no one inquires what is said, but who has said it. If it be Rothschild, his Holiness Pius the Ninth, or even Monseigneur Dupanloup, it is something; but if it be Tartempion, it is nothing, were he even—which is possible, after all—an unrecognised prodigy of genius, knowledge, and good sense.
Hence to those who would say to me: If you possess the secret of great successes, and of a force which can transform the world, why do you not make use of them? I would answer: This knowledge has come to me too late for myself, and I have spent over its acquisition the time and the resources which might have enabled me to apply it; I offer it to those who are in a position to avail themselves of it. Illustrious men, rich men, great ones of this world, who are dissatisfied with that which you have, who are conscious of a nobler and larger ambition, will you be fathers of a new world, kings of a rejuvenated civilisation? A poor and obscure scholar has found the lever of Archimides, and he offers it to you for the good of humanity alone, asking nothing whatsoever in exchange.
The phenomena which have quite recently perturbed America and Europe, as regards table-turning and fluidic manifestations, are simply magnetic currents at the beginning of their formation, appeals on the part of nature inviting us, for the good of humanity, to re-establish the great sympathetic and religious chains.
As a fact, stagnation in the astral light would mean death to the human race, and torpor in this secret agent has already been manifested by alarming symptoms of decomposition and death. For example, cholera-morbus, the potato disease, and the blight of the grape, are traceable solely to this cause, as the two young shepherds of la Salette saw darkly and symbolically in their dream. The unlooked-for credit which awaited their narrative, and the vast concourse of pilgrims attracted by a statement so singular and at the same time so vague as that of these two children without instruction and almost without morality, are proofs of the magnetic reality of the fact, and the fluidic tendency of the earth itself to operate the cure of its inhabitants.
Superstitions are instinctive, and all that is instinctive is founded in the very nature of things, to which fact the sceptics of all times have given insufficient attention. We attribute, then, all the strange phenomena of table-turning to the universal magnetic agent in search of a chain of enthusiasms with a view to the formation of fresh currents. The force of itself is blind, but it can be directed by the will of man, and is influenced by prevailing opinions. This universal fluid—if we decide to regard it as a fluid—being the common medium of all nervous organisms, and the vehicle of all sensitive vibrations, establishes an actual physical solidarity between impressionable persons, and transmits from one to another the impressions of imagination and of thought.
The movement of the inert object, determined by the undulations of the universal agent, obeys the ruling impression, and reproduces in its revelations at one time all the lucidity of the most wonderful visions, and at another all the eccentricity and falsehood of the most vague and incoherent dreams. The blows resounding on furniture, the clattering of dishes, the self-playing of musical instruments, are illusions produced by the same cause.
The miracles of the convulsionaries of Saint Médard were of the same order, and seemed frequently to suspend the laws of nature. On the one hand, exaggeration produced by fascination, which is the special quality of intoxication occasioned by congestions of the astral light; on the other, actual oscillations or movements impressed upon inert matter by the subtle and universal agent of motion and life. Such is the sole foundation of these occurrences which look so marvellous, as we may easily demonstrate at will by reproducing, in accordance with rules laid down in the Ritual,3 the most astounding of these phenomena, establishing, as can be done quite simply, the absence of trickery, hallucination, or error.
It has frequently happened to me after experiments in the magic chain, performed with persons devoid of good intention or sympathy, that I have been awakened with a start in the night by truly alarming impressions and sensations.
On one such occasion I felt vividly the pressure of an unknown hand attempting to strangle me; I rose up, lighted my lamp, and set myself calmly to work, seeking to profit by my wakefulness and to drive away the phantoms of sleep. The books about me were moved with much noise, papers were disturbed and rubbed one against another, timber creaked as if on the point of splitting, and heavy blows resounded on the ceiling.
With curiosity but also with tranquillity I observed all these phenomena, which would not have been less wonderful had they been only the product of my imagination, so real did they seem. For the rest, I may state that I was in no sense frightened, and during this occurrence I was engaged upon something quite foreign to the occult sciences. By the repetition of similar phenomena I was led to attempt the experience of evocation, assisted by the magical ceremonies of the ancients, when I obtained truly astounding results, which will be set forth in the thirteenth chapter of this work.3