Supreme intelligence is necessarily reasonable. God, in philosophy, may be only a hypothesis, but he is a hypothesis imposed by good sense on human reason. To personify the Absolute Reason is to determine the divine ideal.
Necessity, liberty, and reason—these are the great and supreme triangle of the Kabbalists, who name reason Kether, necessity Chochmah, and liberty Binah, in their first divine triad. Fatality, will, and power, such is the magical triad, which corresponds in things human to the divine triad. Fatality is the inevitable sequence of effects and causes in a determined order. Will is the directing faculty of intelligent forces for the conciliation of the liberty of persons with the necessity of things. Power is the wise application of will which enlists fatality itself in the accomplishment of the desires of the sage.
When Moses smote the rock, he did not create the spring of water, he revealed it to the people, because occult science had made it known to himself by means of the divining rod. It is in like manner with all miracles of magic; a law exists, which is ignored by the vulgar and made use of by the initiate. Occult laws are often diametrically opposed to common ideas. For example, the crowd believes in the sympathy of things which are alike and in the hostility of things contrary, but it is the opposite which is the true law. It used to be affirmed that nature detests the void, but it should be said that nature desires it, were the void not, in physics, the most irrational of fictions. In all things the vulgar mind habitually takes shadow for reality, turns its back upon light, and is reflected in the obscurity which it projects itself.
The forces of nature are at the disposal of one who knows how to resist them. Are you master sufficiently of yourself to be never intoxicated? Then will you direct the terrible and fatal power of intoxication. If you would make others drunk, possess them with the desire of drink, but do not partake of it yourself. That man will dispose of the love of others who is master of his own. If you would possess, do not give. The world is magnetised by the light of the sun, and we are magnetised by the astral light of the world. That which operates in the body of the planet repeats itself in us. Within us there are three analogical and hierarchic worlds, as in all nature.
Man is the microcosm or little world, and, according to the doctrine of analogies, whatsoever is in the great world is reproduced in the small.
Hence we have three centres of fluidic attraction and projection—the brain, the heart or epigastric region, and the genital organ. Each of these instruments is double—in other words, we find the suggestion of the triad therein. Each attracts on one side and repels on another. It is by means of these apparatuses that we place ourselves in communication with the universal fluid transmitted into us by the nervous system. These three centres are, moreover, the seat of the threefold magnetic operation, as we shall explain elsewhere.1
When the magus has attained lucidity, whether through the mediation of a pythoness, or by his own development, he communicates and directs at will the magnetic vibrations in the whole mass of the astral light, the currents of which he divines by means of the magic rod, which is a perfected divining rod. By the aid of these vibrations he influences the nervous system of persons surrendered to his action, accelerates or suspends the currents of life, soothes or tortures, heals or hurts; in fine, slays or brings to life. … Here, however, we pause in presence of the smile of incredulity. Let us permit it to enjoy the cheap triumph of denying what it does not know.
We shall demonstrate later on1 that death is always preceded by a lethargic sleep, and only takes place gradually; that resurrection is possible in certain cases; that lethargy is a real, but uncompleted, death; and that the final paroxysm is in many cases subsequent to inhumation. This, however, is not the subject of the present chapter.
We now affirm that a lucid will can act upon the mass of the astral light, and, in concurrence with other wills, which it absorbs and draws along, can determine great and irresistible currents. We say also that the astral light condenses or rarefies in proportion as currents accumulate, more or less, at certain centres.
When it is deficient in the energy required for the support of life, diseases accompanied by sudden decomposition follow, of the kind which baffle physicians. There is no other cause, by example, in the case of cholera-morbus, and the swarms of animalcule observed or supposed by some specialists may be the effect rather than the cause. Cholera should therefore be treated by insufflation, did not the operator thereby run the chance of an exchange with the patient, which would be very formidable for himself.
Every intelligent effort of will is a projection of the human fluid or light, and here it is needful to distinguish the human from the astral light, and animal from universal magnetism. In making use of the word fluid, we employ an accepted expression, and would make ourselves understood in this manner, but we are far from deciding that the latent light is a fluid. Everything prompts us, on the contrary, to prefer the system of vibrations in the explanation of this phenomenal subject. However it may be, the light in question, being the instrument of life, cleaves naturally to all living centres, attaches itself to the nucleus of planets, even as to the heart of man—and by the heart we understand magically the great sympathetic—identifying itself with the individual life of the being which it animates, and it is by this quality of sympathetic assimilation that it distributes itself without confusion. Hence it is terrestrial in its affinity with the sphere of the earth, and human exclusively in its affinity with men.
It is for this reason that electricity, caloric, light, and magnetism, produced by ordinary physical means, not only do not originate, but rather tend to neutralise the effects of animal magnetism.
The astral light, subordinated to a blind mechanism, and proceeding from arbitrary automatic centres, is a dead light, and works mathematically, following given impulsions or fatal laws; the human light is fatal only to the ignorant in chance experiments; in the seer it is subjected to intelligence, submitted to imagination, and dependent on will. This light, continually projected by the will, constitutes the personal atmospheres of Swedenborg. The body absorbs what environs it, and radiates perpetually by projecting its influences and invisible molecules; it is the same with the spirit, so that this phenomenon, by some mystics termed respiration, has really the influence, both physical and moral, which is assigned to it. It is undoubtedly contagious to breathe the same air as diseased persons, and to be within the circle of attraction and expansion which surrounds the wicked.
When the magnetic atmosphere of two persons is so equilibrated that the attractive faculty of one draws the expansive faculty of the other, a tendency is produced which is termed sympathy; then imagination, calling up to it all the rays or reflections analogous to that which it experiences, makes a poem of the desires which captivate the will, and, if the persons differ in sex, it occasions in them, or more commonly in the weaker of the two, a complete intoxication of the astral light, which is termed passion par excellence, or love.
Love is one of the great instruments of magical power, but it is categorically forbidden to the magus, at least as an intoxication or passion. Woe to the Samson of the Kabbalah if he permit himself to be put asleep by Delilah! The Hercules of science, who exchanges his royal sceptre for the distaff of Omphalê, will soon experience the vengeance of Dejanira, and nothing will be left for him but the pyre of Mount Oetá, in order to escape the devouring folds of the coat of Nessus. Sexual love is ever an illusion, for it is the result of an imaginary mirage.
The astral light is the universal seducer, typified by the serpent of Genesis. This subtle agent, ever active, ever abounding in sap, ever fruitful in alluring dreams and sensuous images; this force, which by itself is blind and subordinated to every will, whether for good or evil; this every renewing circulus of unbridled life, which produces vertigo in the imprudent; this corporal spirit; this fiery body; this impalpable omnipresent ether; this monstrous seduction of nature—how shall we define it comprehensively and how characterise its action? To some extent indifferent in itself, it lends itself to good as to evil; it transmits light and propagates darkness; it may be called equally Lucifer and Lucifuge; it is a serpent but it is also an aureole; it is a fire, but it may belong equally to the torments of infernus, or to the sacrifice of incense offered up to heaven. To dispose of it, we must, like the predestined women, set our foot upon its head.
In the elementary world water corresponds to the kabbalistic woman and fire to the serpent.
To subdue the serpent, that is, to govern the circle of the astral light, we must place ourselves outside its currents, that is, we must isolate ourselves. For this reason Apollonius of Tyana wrapped himself completely in a mantle of fine wool, setting his feet thereon and drawing it over his head. Then he bent his back in semi-circular fashion, and closed his eyes, after fulfilling certain rites, probably magnetic passes and sacramental words designed to fix the imagination and determine the action of the will.
The woollen mantle is of great use in magic, and was the common conveyance of sorcerers on their way to the Sabbath, which proves that the sorcerers did not really go to the Sabbath, but the Sabbath came to the sorcerers, when isolated in their mantle, and conducted to their translucid images analogous to their magical preoccupations, combined with reflections of all kindred acts previously accomplished in the world.
This torrent of universal life is also represented in religious doctrines by the expiatory fire of hell. It is the instrument of initiation, the monster to be overcome, the enemy to subdue; it is this which brings to our evocations and to the conjurations of goëtic magic such swarms of larvae and phantoms; therein are preserved all the forms which by their fantastic and fortuitous assemblage people our nightmares with such abominable deformities.
To allow ourselves to be sucked down by this whirling stream is to fall into the abysses of madness, more frightful than those of death; to expel the darkness of this chaos and force it to give perfect forms to our thoughts—this is, to be a man of genius, it is to create, it is to be victorious over hell!
The astral light directs the instincts of animals and offers battle to the intelligence of man, which it strives to pervert by the enticements of its reflections, and the illusion of its images, a fatal and inevitable operation, directed and made still more calamitous by the elementary spirits and suffering souls, whose restless wills seek out sympathies in our weakness, and tempt us not so much to destroy us as to win friends for themselves.
That book of consciences which, according to Christian doctrine, shall be opened at the last day, is no other than the astral light, which preserves the impress of every logos, that is to say, of all actions and all forms. Our acts modify our magnetic respiration in such a way that a seer, meeting any person for the first time, can tell whether that person is innocent or criminal, and what are his virtues or his crimes. This faculty, which belongs to divination, was called by the Christian mystics of the early Church the discernment of spirits.
Those who abdicate the empire of reason and delight to let their wills wander in pursuit of the reflections in the astral light, are subject to alternations of mania and melancholy which have originated all the marvels of demoniacal possession, though it is true, at the same time, that by means of these reflections impure spirits can act upon similar souls, make use of them as docile instruments, and even habitually torment their organism, wherein they enter and reside by obsession, or embryonically. These kabbalistic terms are explained in the Hebrew book of the Revolution of Souls, of which our thirteenth chapter will contain a succinct analysis.1
It is therefore extremely dangerous to make sport of the mysteries of magic; it is, above all, excessively rash to practise its rites from curiosity, by experiment, and as if to exploit higher forces. The inquisitive who, without being adepts, busy themselves with evocations or occult magnetism, are like children playing with fire in the neighbourhood of a cask of gunpowder; sooner or later they will fall victims to some terrible explosion.
To be isolated from the astral light it is not enough to envelop one’s self in a woollen fabric; we must also, and above all, impose absolute tranquillity on mind and heart, we must have quitted the world of passions and be assured of perseverance in the spontaneous operations of an inflexible will. We must frequently reiterate the acts of this will, for, as we shall see in the introduction to the Ritual,1 the will only assures itself by acts, as the power and perpetuity of religions depend on their rites and ceremonies.
There are intoxicating substances, which, by increasing nervous sensibility, exalt the power and consequently the allurements of astral representations; by the same means, but pursuing a contrary course, spirits may be alarmed and disturbed. These substances, of themselves magnetic, and further magnetised by the operators, are what people term philters and enchanted potions.
But we shall not enter here upon this dangerous application of magic, which Cornelius Agrippa himself terms venomous magic. It is true that there are no longer pyres for sorcerers, but always, and more than ever, are there penalties dealt out to malefactors. Let us confine ourselves therefore to stating, as the occasion offers, the reality of this power.
To direct the astral light we must understand also its double vibration, as well as the balance of forces termed magical equilibrium and expressed in the Kabbalah by the senary. Considered in its first cause, this equilibrium is the will of God; it is liberty in man, and mathematical equilibrium in matter. Equilibrium produces stability and duration. Liberty generates the immortality of man, and the will of God gives effect to the laws of eternal reason. Equilibrium in ideas is reason and in forces power. Equilibrium is exact; fulfil its law, and it is there; violate it, however slightly, and it is destroyed.
For this reason nothing is useless or lost. Every utterance and every movement are for or against truth, which is composed of for and against conciliated, or at least equilibrated.
We shall state in the introduction to the Ritual how magical equilibrium should be produced, and why it is necessary to the success of all operations.
Omnipotence is the most absolute liberty; now, absolute liberty cannot exist apart from perfect equilibrium. Magical equilibrium is hence one of the first conditions of success in the operations of science, and must be sought even in occult chemistry, by learning to combine contraries without neutralising them by one another.
Magical equilibrium explains the great and primeval mystery of the existence and relative necessity of evil. This relative necessity gives, in black magic, the measure of the power of demons or impure spirits, to whom virtues practised upon earth are a source of increased rage and apparently of increased power.
At the epochs when saints and angels work miracles openly, sorcerers and fiends in their turn operate marvels and prodigies. Rivalry often creates success; we lean upon that which resists.