We have said that the images of persons and things are preserved in the astral light. Therein also can be evoked the forms of those who are in our world no longer, and by this means are accomplished those mysteries of necromancy which are so contested and at the same time so real. The Kabbalists who have discoursed concerning the world of spirits have simply described what they have seen in their evocations. Eliphas Levi Zahed,1 who writes this book, has evoked, and he has seen. Let us state, in the first place, what the masters have written of their visions or their intuitions in that which they term the light of glory.
We read in the Hebrew book concerning the Revolution of Souls that there are three classes of souls—
- the daughters of Adam,
- the daughters of angels,
- and the daughters of sin.
According to the same book, there are also three kinds of spirits—
- captive spirits,
- wandering spirits,
- and free spirits.
Souls are sent forth in couples; at the same time certain souls of men are born widowed, and their spouses are held captive by Lilith and Naëmah, the queens of the stryges; they are souls condemned to expiate the temerity of a celibate’s vow. Hence, when a man renounces the love of women from his infancy, he makes the bride who was destined for him a slave to the demons of debauch.
Souls grow and multiply in heaven as bodies do upon earth. Immaculate souls are the daughters of the kisses of angels.
Nothing can enter heaven save that which comes from heaven. Hence, after death, the divine spirit which animated man returns alone to heaven and leaves two corpses, one upon earth, the other in the atmosphere; one terrestrial and elementary, the other aerial and sidereal, one already inert, the other still animated by the universal movement of the soul of the world, yet destined to die slowly, absorbed by the astral forces which produced it.
The terrestrial body is visible; the other is unseen by the eyes of earthly and living bodies, nor can it be beheld except by the application of the astral light to the translucid, which conveys its impressions to the nervous system, and thus influences the organ of sight so as to make it perceive the forms which are preserved and the words which are written in the book of vital light.
When a man has lived well the astral body evaporates like a pure incense ascending towards the upper regions; but should he have lived in sin, his astral body, which holds him prisoner, still seeks the objects of its passions, and wishes to return to life.
It torments the dreams of young girls, bathes in the steam of spilt blood, and floats about the places where the pleasures of its life elapsed; it still watches over treasures which it possessed and buried; it expends itself in painful efforts to make fresh material organs and so live again.
But the stars draw it up and absorb it; its feels its intelligence weaken, its memory gradually vanishes, all its being dissolves. … Its former vices rise up before it, assume monstrous shapes, and pursue it; they attack and devour it. … The unfortunate creature thus successively loses all the members which have ministered to his iniquities; then he dies a second time and for ever, because he loses his personality and his memory.
Souls which are destined to live, but are not yet completely purified, remain captive for a longer or shorter period in the astral body, wherein they are burned by the odic light, which seeks to absorb and dissolve them. It is in order to escape from this body that suffering souls sometimes enter the bodies of the living and therein dwell in that state which Kabbalists term embryonic.
Now, it is these aerial bodies which are evoked by necromancy. We enter into connection with larvae, with dead or perishing substances, by this operation. The beings in question, for the most part, cannot speak except by the tingling of our ears produced by the nervous shock to which I have referred, and commonly they can only reason by reflecting our thoughts and our reveries.
To behold these strange forms, we must put ourselves in abnormal condition akin to sleep or death, in other words, we must magnetise ourselves and enter into a kind of lucid and waking somnambulism. Then necromancy has real results, and then the evocations of magic can produce actual visions.
We have said that in the great magical agent, which is the astral light, there are preserved all impressions of things, all images formed either by rays or reflections; in this same light our visions come to us, and it is this which intoxicates the insane, and leads away their dormant judgment in pursuit of the most bizarre phantoms.
To insure vision without illusion in this light, a powerful will must be with us to isolate reflections and attract rays only. To dream awake is to see in the astral light, and the orgies of the Sabbath, described by so many sorcerers in their criminal trials, came to them solely in this manner.
The preparations and the substances used to obtain this result were often horrible, as we shall see in the Ritual,2 but the result itself was never doubtful. They beheld, they heard, they handled the most abominable, most fantastic, most impossible things. We shall return to this subject in our fifteenth chapter;2 at the present moment we are concerned only with the evocations of the dead.
In the spring of the year 1854 I had undertaken a journey to London, that I might escape from internal disquietude, and devote myself, without interruption, to science.
I had letters of introduction to persons of eminence, who were anxious for revelations from the supernatural world. I made the acquaintance of several, and discovered in them, amidst much that was courteous, a depth of indifference or trifling. They asked me forthwith to work wonders, as if I were a charlatan, and I was somewhat discouraged, for, to speak frankly, far from being inclined to initiate others into the mysteries of ceremonial magic, I had myself shrunk all along from its illusions and weariness; moreover, such ceremonies necessitated an equipment which would be expensive and hard to collect.
I buried myself, therefore, in the study of the transcendent Kabbalah, and concerned myself no further with English adepts, when, returning one day to my hotel, I found a note awaiting me. This note contained half of a card, divided transversely, on which I immediately recognised the seal of Solomon. It was accompanied by a small sheet of paper, on which these words were pencilled:— “To-morrow, at three o’clock, in front of Westminster Abbey, the second half of this card will be given you.”. I kept this curious assignation.
At the appointed spot I found a carriage drawn up, and as I held unaffectedly the morsel of card in my hand, a footman approached, making a sign as he did so, and then opened the door of the equipage. It contained a lady in black, wearing a thick veil; she motioned to me to take a seat beside her, shewing me at the same time the other half of the card. The door closed, the carriage drove off, and, the lady raising her veil, I saw that my appointment was with an elderly person, with grey eyebrows and black eyes of unusual brilliance, and strangely fixed in expression. “Sir,” she began, with a strongly marked English accent, “I am aware that the law of secrecy is rigorous amongst adepts; a friend of Sir B— L—, who has seen you, knows that you have been asked for phenomena, and that you have refused to gratify such curiosity. You are possibly without the materials; I should like to shew you a complete magical cabinet, but I must exact beforehand the most inviolable silence. If you will not give me this pledge upon your honour, I shall give orders for you to be driven to your home.”
I made the required promise, and faithfully keep it by divulging neither the name, position, nor abode of this lady, whom I soon recognised as an initiate, not exactly of the first order, but still of a most exalted grade. We had a number of long conversations, in the course of which she invariably insisted upon the necessity of practical experience to complete initiation. She shewed me a collection of magical vestments and instruments, lent me some rare books, which I needed; in short, she determined me to attempt, at her house, the experiment of a complete evocation, for which I prepared during a period of twenty-one days, scrupulously observing the rules laid down in the thirteenth chapter of the Ritual.2
The probation terminated on the 24th of July: it was proposed to evoke the phantom of the divine Apollonius, and to question it upon two secrets, one which concerned myself, and one which interested the lady. She had counted on taking part in the evocation with a trustworthy person, but this person proved nervous at the last moment, and, as the triad or unity is indispensable for magical rites, I was left to my own resources.
The cabinet prepared for the evocation was situated in a turret; it contained four concave mirrors, and a species of altar having a white marble top, encircled by a chain of magnetized iron. The sign of the pentagram, as given in the fifth chapter of this work, was carved and gilded on the white marble surface; it was drawn also in various colours upon a new white lambskin stretched beneath the altar. In the middle of the marble table there was a small copper chafing-dish, containing charcoal of alder and laurel wood; another chafing-dish was set before me on a tripod.
I was clothed in a white garment, very similar to the vestments of our catholic priests, but longer and wider, and I wore upon my head a crown of vervain leaves, intertwined with a golden chain. I held a new sword in one hand, and in the other the Ritual.
I kindled two fires with the required and prepared substances, and I began reading the evocations of the Ritual in a voice at first low, but rising by degrees. The smoke spread, the flame caused the objects upon which it fell to waver, then it went out, the smoke still floating white and slow about the marble altar; I seemed to feel a kind of quaking of the earth, my ears tingled, my heart beat quickly.
I heaped more twigs and perfumes on the chafing-dishes, and as the flame again burst up, I beheld distinctly, before the altar, the figure of a man of more than normal size, which dissolved and vanished away. I recommenced the evocations, and placed myself within a circle which I had drawn previously between the tripod and the altar. Thereupon the mirror which was behind the altar seemed to brighten in its depth, a wan form was outlined therein, which increased, and seemed to approach by degrees.
Three times, and with closed eyes, I invoked Apollonius. When I again looked forth there was a man in front of me, wrapped from head to foot in a species of shroud, which seemed more grey than white; he was lean, melancholy and beardless, and did not altogether correspond to my preconceived notion of Apollonius.
I experienced an abnormally cold sensation, and when I endeavoured to question the phantom I could not articulate a syllable. I therefore placed my hand upon the sign of the pentagram, and pointed the sword at the figure, commanding it mentally to obey and not alarm me, in virtue of the said sign. The form thereupon became vague, and suddenly disappeared.
I directed it to return, and presently felt, as it were, a breath close by me, something touched my hand which was holding the sword, and the arm became immediately benumbed as far as the elbow. I divined that the sword displeased the spirit, and I therefore placed its point downwards, close by me, within the circle.
The human figure reappeared immediately, but I experienced such an intense weakness in all my limbs, and a swooning sensation came so quickly over me, that I made two steps to sit down, whereupon I fell into a profound lethargy, accompanied by dreams, of which I had only a confused recollection when I came again to myself.
For several subsequent days my arm remained benumbed and painful. The apparition did not speak to me, but it seemed that the questions I had designed to ask answered themselves in my mind.
To that of the lady an interior voice replied—Death!—it was concerning a man of whom she desired information. As for myself, I sought to know whether reconciliation and forgiveness were possible between two persons who occupied my thoughts, and the same inexorable echo within me also answered—Dead!
I am stating facts as they occurred, but I would impose faith on no one. The consequence of this experience on myself was something inexplicable. I was no longer the same man; something of another world had passed into me; I was no longer either sad or cheerful, but I felt a singular attraction towards death, unaccompanied, however, by any suicidal tendency.
I analysed my experience carefully, and, notwithstanding a lively nervous repugnance, I twice repeated the same experiment, allowing some days to elapse between each; there was not, however, sufficient difference between the phenomena to warrant me in protracting a narrative which is perhaps already too long.
But the net result of these two additional evocations was for me the revelation of two Kabbalistic secrets which might change, in a short space of time, the foundations and laws of society at large, if they came to be known generally.
Am I to conclude from all this that I really evoked, saw, and touched the great Apollonius of Tyana? I am not so hallucinated as to affirm or so unserious as to believe it. The effect of the probations, the perfumes, the mirrors, the pantacles, is an actual drunkenness of the imagination, which must act powerfully upon a person otherwise nervous and impressionable.
I do not explain the physical laws by which I saw and touched; I affirm solely that I did see and that I did touch, that I saw clearly and distinctly, apart from dreaming, and this is sufficient to establish the real efficacy of magical ceremonies.
For the rest, I regard the practice as destructive and dangerous; if it became habitual, neither moral nor physical health would be able to withstand it.
The elderly lady whom I have mentioned, and of whom I subsequently had reason to complain, was a case in point; despite her asseverations to the contrary, I have no doubt that she was addicted to necromancy and goëtia. She at times lost all self-control, at others yielded to senseless fits of passion, for which it was difficult to discover a cause.
I left London without bidding her adieu, and I shall faithfully adhere to my engagement by giving no clue to her identity, which might connect her name with practices, pursued in all probability without the knowledge of her family, which I believe to be large and of very considerable position.
There are evocations of intelligence, evocations of love, and evocations of hate; but, once more, there is no proof whatsoever that spirits really leave the higher spheres to communicate with us; the opposite, as a fact, is more probable. We evoke the memories which they have left in the astral light, or common reservoir of universal magnetism.
It was in this light that the Emperor Julian once saw the gods manifest, looking old, ill, and decrepit—fresh proof of the influence exercised by current and accredited opinions on the reflections of this same magical agent which makes our tables talk and answers by taps on the walls.
After the evocation I have described, I re-read carefully the life of Apollonius, who is represented by historians as an ideal of antique beauty and elegance, and I then observed that towards the end of his life he was starved and tormented in prison. This circumstance, which may have remained in my memory without my being aware of it, possibly determined the unattractive form of my vision, which I regard solely as the voluntary dream of a waking man.
I have seen two other persons, whom there is no occasion to name, both differing, as regards costume and appearance, from what I had expected. For the rest, I commend the greatest caution to those who propose devoting themselves to similar experiences; their result is intense exhaustion, and frequently a shock sufficient to occasion illness.
I must not conclude this chapter without mentioning the curious opinions of certain Kabbalists, who distinguish between apparent and real death, holding that the two are seldom simultaneous. In their idea, the majority of persons who are buried are still alive, while a number of others who are regarded as living are in reality dead.
Incurable madness, for example, would be with them an incomplete but real death, leaving the terrestial body under the purely instinctive control of the sidereal body. When the human soul experiences a greater blow than it can bear, it would thus become separated from the body, leaving the animal soul, or sidereal body, in its place, and these human remains would be to some extent less alive really than a mere animal. Dead persons of this kind are said to be recognised by the complete extinction of the moral and affectionate sense; they are neither bad nor good; they are dead.
Such beings, who are the poisonous fungi of the human race, absorb the life of living beings to their fullest possible extent, and this is why their proximity benumbs the soul and chills the heart. If such corpse-like creatures really existed, they would realise all that was recounted in former times about brocalaques[^TODO] and vampires.
[^TODO] [Todo: Get someone who reads French to figure out what Waite butchered here.]
Now, are there not certain persons in whose presence one feels less intelligent, less good, sometimes even less honest? Are there not some whose vicinity extinguishes all faith and all enthusiasm, who draw you by your weaknesses, who govern you by your evil propensities, and make you die slowly to morality in a torment like that of Mezentius? These are dead people whom we mistake for living beings; these are vampires whom we regard as friends!