December 9th, 2004
The Great Secret
by Eliphas Levi
The Royal Mystery
or the Art of Subduing the Powers
Magnetism is a force analogous to that of the ordinary magnet, and permeates the whole of nature.
Its characteristics are: attraction, repulsion and a balanced polarization.
Science takes account of celestial and mineral magnetism. Animal magnetism is exhibited daily in facts which science is unable to deny; but it regards them with mistrust, and rightly waits to admit them whenever analysis can be supplemented by an incontrovertible synthesis.
It is well known that the magnetic state produced by animal magnetism brings about an unusual type of sleep during which the soul of the magnetized individual falls under the domination of the magnetizer, with this peculiarity that the sleeper seems to leave his own life unoccupied and shows only those phenomena which belong to the universal life. He reflects the thoughts of others, sees without using his eyes, visits all places without any recognition of space, perceives forms much better than colours, foreshortens or confuses periods of time, speaks of the future as if it were past and of the past as if it were still to come, tells the magnetizer the latter's thoughts - even the secret voice of his conscience, summons into his memory the people of whom he is thinking and describes them in the greatest detail, even though the clairvoyant has never seen them, speaks the language of science like a scholar and that of the imagination like a poet, diagnoses diseases and finds the remedies for them, often imparts wise advice, suffers with those who suffer and sometimes cries bitterly beforehand when revealing the distress which has to come.
These strange but incontestable facts lead us to the necessary conclusion that there is a common life shared by all souls; or at least a common mirror for every imagination and every memory, in which it is possible for us to gaze at one another like a crowd of people standing before a glass. This reflector is the odic light of Baron Reichenbach, which we call the astral light, and is the great agency of life termed od, ob and aour by the Hebrews. The magnetism controlled by the will of the operator is Od; that of passive clairvoyance is Ob: the pythonesses of antiquity were clairvoyantes intoxicated with the passive astral light. This light is called the spirit of Python in our holy books, because in Greek mythology the serpent Python is its allegorical representative.
In its double action, it is also represented by the serpent of the caduceus: the right-hand serpent is Od, the one on the left is Ob and, in the middle, at the top of the hermetic staff, shines the golden globe which represents Aour, or light in equilibrium.
Od represents life governed by free choice, Ob represents life ruled by fate. This is why the Hebrew Law-giver said: `Woe to those who divine by Ob, because they evoke fate, which is an offence against the providence of God and the liberty of man.'
Certainly, there is a wide difference between the serpent Python, which crawled in the mud of the deluge and was shot by the sun's arrows, and that which coils around the rod of Aesculapius, just as the tempter serpent of Eden differs from the brazen serpent which cured those who were poisoned in the desert. These two antagonistic serpents really stand for those contrary forces which may be connected but never confused. Hermes' sceptre, while keeping them apart, also reconciles them, and even unites them in a way; and this is how, under the penetrating eyes of science, harmony arises from the analogy of contraries.
Necessity and Liberty, these are the two great laws of life; and properly speaking these two laws only make one, because they are both indispensable.
Necessity without liberty would be fatal, even as liberty without its necessary curb would go insane. Privilege without obligation is folly, and obligation without privilege is slavery.
The whole secret of magnetism lies here: to rule the fatality of the ob by intelligence and the power of the od so as to create the perfect balance of aour.
When an unbalanced magnetizer, who has been made the slave of fate by the passions that master him, tries to operate on the light of fate, he is like a blindfold man on a blind horse, endeavouring to spur it into a gallop in a forest full of winding tracks and cliff-edges.
The fortune-tellers, the card-readers, the clairvoyants are all of them the subjects of hallucination who make their predictions by ob.
The glass of water in hydromancy, the tarot of Etteila, the lines in the palm, etc., produce a kind of hypnotism in the seer. Thus he regards his consultant in the reflection of his own silly desires or greedy imaginations; and because he is himself a spirit without dignity or nobility of will, he divines his client's follies and suggests to him even greater ones, which is all a part of his success so he thinks.
A card-reader who counselled honesty and upright behaviour would soon lose his clientele of kept women and hysterical old maids.
The two magnetic lights may be called one the living light and the other the dead light, one the astral fluid and the other the spectral phosphorus, one the torch of discourse and the other the smoke of dreams.
To magnetize without danger, it is essential to have within oneself the light of life, that is to say it is necessary to be wise and righteous.
The man who is a slave to his passions does not magnetize, he fascinates; but in radiating his fascination he enlarges the giddy circle around him; he multiplies his spells and saps his will power more and more. He is like a spider which wears itself out and is finally caught in its own web.
Humanity has not yet known the supreme rule of reason, even today; they mistake it for each man's personal and almost always erroneous rationalizing. However, Mr de La Palice himself would tell them that he who deceives himself is not a man of reason, for reason is just the exact opposite of our errors.
The individuals and masses who are not governed by reason are the slaves of fate; fate makes public opinion and opinion is queen of the world.
Men want to be dominated, tranquillized and led away. The major cravings seem more beautiful to them than virtues do, and those whom they call great men are often the big fools. The cynicism of Diogenes pleases them like the charlatanism of Empedocles. There would be none they would admire so much as Ajax and Capaneus if Polyeucte had not been wilder still. Pyramus and Thisbe - who killed themselves - are the model lovers. The author of a paradox is always certain to make his name. And the world in its spite and envy has tried in vain to consign the name of Erostratus to oblivion, this name is so abnormal that it survives in their anger and imprints itself eternally on their memory!
The fools then are magnetizers or rather fascinators, and this is what makes their folly contagious. Because they have failed to measure true greatness, people get taken up with what is exotic.
Children who have not yet learnt to walk wish to be picked up and carried about.
Nobody likes wild behaviour as much as the impotent do. It is their incapacity for pleasure which makes characters like Tiberius and Messalina. The Parisian street-arab in his paradise on the boulevards would like to be a bandit and laughs uproariously on seeing Telemachus ridiculed.
Not everybody has the inclinations of drug addicts or alcoholics, but almost everyone would like to get his spirit `high' and would be happy enough if his heart `went on a trip'.
When Christianity imposed itself on the world by the fascination of martyrdom, a great writer of that period put the thoughts of everyone into words when he said: `I believe because it is irrational!'
The foolishness of the Cross, as Saint Paul himself called it, was then on its invincible march. The books of the adepts were burnt, and Saint Paul at Ephesus preluded the exploits of Omar. The temples were demolished which had been the wonders of the world, and the idols which had been artistic masterpieces. People developed the taste for death and wanted to despoil their transient existence of all its ornaments so that they might withdraw from life.
A distaste for realities always goes with a love of dreams: Quam sordet tellus dum coelum aspicio! said a famous mystic. This means literally: How sordid the earth becomes when I look at the sky! How so; does your nurse, the earth, get dirty when your gaze loses itself in space? What is the earth then, if she is not a heavenly body? Perhaps she is dirty because she has to carry you around with her? No doubt if you were transported to the sun, the sun would soon appear tarnished to your finicky eye! Would the sky be a better place if it were empty? Isn't it just the point that it is so wonderful to look at because it lights up the earth by day and, in the night, shines with a countless multitude of earths and suns? What, the splended earth, the earth of immense oceans, the earth so full of trees and flowers becomes filth to you because you want to be launched into space? Believe me, you do not need to travel far for that: the void is in your spirit and in your heart!
It is the love of dreams which mixes so much suffering with the dreams of love. Love, as it is given to us by nature, is a delightful reality, but our unhealthy pride looks for something better than nature; hence the hysterical mania of the misunderstood. The thought of Charlotte, in Werther's head, is fatally transformed - as is only inevitable - into the shape of a pistol bullet. The outcome of preposterous love is suicide.
True love, natural love, is the miracle of magnetism. It is the intertwining of the two serpents of the caduceus. Its generation looks fated, but it is brought into being by the supreme reason which produces it according to natural laws. It is fabled that Tiresias incurred the wrath of Venus for separating two serpents who were copulating, and became a hermaphrodite: which neutralized his sexual potency; then the angry goddess struck him again, blinding him, because he had claimed for the woman that which was mainly the right of the man. Tiresias was a soothsayer who prophesied by means of the dead light. His predictions, too, announced misfortunes, and always seemed to be caused by misfortunes. This allegory sums up the entire philosophy of magnetism which we have just revealed.