We are glad to lay before our readers the first of a series of unpublished writings of the late Éliphas Lévi (Abbé Louis Constant) one of the great masters of occult sciences of the present century in the West. An ex-Catholic priest, he was unfrocked by the ecclesiastical authorities at Rome, who tolerate no belief in God, Devil, or Science outside the narrow circle of their circumscribed dogma, and who anathematize every creed-crushed soul that succeeds in breaking its mental bondage. “Just in the ratio that knowledge increases, faith diminishes; consequently, those that know the most, always believe the least” – said Carlyle. Éliphas Lévi knew much; far more than the privileged few even among the greatest mystics of modern Europe; hence, he was traduced by the ignorant many. He had written these ominous words . . .
“The discovery of the great secrets of true religion and of the primitive science of the Magi, revealing to the world the unity of the universal dogma, annihilates fanaticism by scientifically explaining and giving the reason for every miracle,” and these words sealed his doom. Religious bigotry persecuted him for disbelieving in “divine” miracle; bigoted materialism for using the word “miracle” and “prodigy”; dogmatic science, for attempting to explain that which she could not yet explain herself, and in which, therefore, she disbelieved. The author of “The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic,” of the “Science of Spirits,” and of “The Key to the Great Mysteries,” died, as his famous predecessors in the occult arts, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus and many others did – a pauper. Of all the parts of, the world, Europe is the one which stones her true prophets the most cruelly, while being led by the nose by the false ones the most successfully. Europe will prostrate herself before any idol, provided it flatters her preconceived hobbies and loudly appeals to, and proclaims her superior intelligence. Christian Europe will believe in divine and demoniacal miracles and in the infallibility of a book condemned out of its own mouth, and consisting of old exploded legends. Spiritualistic Europe will fall into ecstasies before the Eidolon of a medium – when it is not a sheet and a clumsy mask – and remain firmly convinced of the reality of the apparitions of ghosts and the spirits of the dead. Scientific Europe will laugh Christians and Spiritualists to scorn, destroy all and build nothing, limiting herself to preparing arsenals of materials which she knows not in most cases what to do with, and whose inner nature is still a mystery for her. And then all the three agreeing in everything else to disagree, will combine their efforts to put down a science hoary with age and ancient wisdom, the only science which is capable of making religion – scientific, Science – religious, and of ridding human Intelligence of the thick cobwebs of CONCEIT and SUPERSTITION.
The article that follows is furnished to us by an esteemed Fellow of the Theosophical Society, and a pupil of Éliphas Lévi. Having lost a dear friend who committed suicide, the great master of the occult science was desired by our correspondent and his pupil to give his views upon the state of the soul of the felo-de-se. He did so; and it is with the kind permission of his pupil, that we now translate and publish his manuscript. Though personally we are far from agreeing with all his opinions – for having been a priest, Éliphas Lévi could never rid himself to his last day of a certain theological bias – we are yet prepared to always lend a respectful ear to the teachings of so learned a Kabalist. Like Agrippa and, to a certain extent, Paracelsus himself, Abbé Constant may be termed a Biblical or Christian Kabalist, though Christ was in his sight more of an ideal than of a living Man-God or an historical personage. Moses and Christ, if real entities, were human initiates into the arcane mysteries in his opinion. Jesus was the type of regenerated humanity, the deific principle being shown under a human form but to prove humanity alone divine. The mysticism of the official church which seeks to absorb the human in the divine nature of Christ, is strongly criticized by her ex-representative. More than anything else Éliphas Lévi is then a Jewish Kabalist. But were we even so much disposed to alter or amend the teachings of so great a master in Occultism, it would be more than improper to do so now, since he is no longer alive to defend and expound his positions. We leave the unenviable task of kicking dead and dying lions to the jackasses – voluntary undertakers of all attacked reputations. Thence, though we do not personally agree with all his views, we do concur m the verdict of the world of letters that Éliphas Lévi was one of the cleverest, most learned, and interesting of writers upon all such abstruse subjects.
A SUICIDE’S AFTER-STATE BY ÉLIPHAS LÉVI (From an unpublished letter)
Voluntary death is the most irredeemable of sinful actions, but it is also the least inexcusable of crimes owing to the painful effort required to accomplish it. Suicide is the result of weakness demanding at the same time a great mental force. It may be inspired by devotion, as it can be due to selfishness, and, proceeds as often through ignorance. Did men but know what a solidarity binds them together, that they live in other men as other men live in them, they would rejoice instead of lamenting in finding a double share of suffering allotted them in life; for, aware of the immutable law of universal equilibrium and harmony, they would be cognizant then of the double share of felicity due to them; hence they would be less ready to renounce their price of labour under the plea of the work being too rough. I pity sincerely your unfortunate friend, though it is for him and his like that the consoling words may be addressed: – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
I am asked what could be done to help his suffering soul? I would certainly never advise you to turn for consolation to the Church. Though she does not forbid hope, the Church regards the suicide as one debarred for ever from the communion of saints; her rigorous laws forcing her always to condemn him. You may help the poor deserter of life, with “prayer” – but that prayer must be one of action, not words. See whether he has not left something undone, or might not have done some more good on earth than he has, and then try to accomplish the deed for him, and in his name.1 Give alms for him; but intelligent and delicate alms; for the latter bear fruit only when helping the cripple and the old, those who are incapable of working; and the money devoted to charity ought to serve to encourage labour and not to favour and promote laziness. If that hapless soul moves you so much to compassion, and you feel such a sympathy for it, then does that feeling come from on high, and you will become the providence and light of that soul. It will live, so to say, on your intellectual and moral life, receiving in the great darkness into which it has rushed by its action no other light but the reflection of your good thoughts for it. But know, that by establishing between yourself and a suffering spirit such a special bond of union you expose yourself to the risk of feeling the reflection of analogous suffering. You may experience great sadness; doubts will assail you; and make you feel discouraged. That poor being adopted by you, may, perhaps, cause you the same agony as the child on the eve of being born makes his mother suffer. The last comparison is so exact that our forefathers have given to that adoption of suffering souls the name of EMBRYONATE in our holy Science (Occultism). I have touched this subject in my work The Science of Spirits; but, as the question concerns you now personally, I will try to make the idea plainer.
A suicide may be compared to a madman, who, to avoid work, would cut off his hands and feet and thus would force others to carry and work for him. He has deprived himself of his physical limbs before his spiritual organs were formed. Life has become impossible to him in such a state; but that which for him is still more impossible is to annihilate himself before his time. If, then, he is fortunate enough to find a person devoted enough to his memory to sacrifice himself and offer him a refuge, he will live through and by that person’s life, not according to the way of the vampires, but according to that of the embryos who live on their mother’s substance without diminishing for it that substance, for nature supplies the waste and gives much to those who spend much. In his pre-natal life the child is conscious of his existence and manifests already his will, by movements independent of, and undirected by, his mother’s will, and causing her even pain. The baby is ignorant of his mother’s thoughts, and the latter knows not what her child may be dreaming of. She is conscious of two existences but not of two distinct souls in her, as their two souls are one in the feeling of her love; and that the birth of her babe does not sever the souls as it does the two bodies. It only gives them – if I may use the expression – a new polarization (as the two ends of a magnet). The same in death which is our second birth. Death does not separate but only polarizes the two souls which were sincerely attached to each other on this earth. The souls disenthralled from their earthly fetters elevate our own to themselves; and in our turn our souls can attract them down2 through a power similar to that of the magnet.
But the sinful souls suffer two kinds of torture. One is the result of their imperfect disenthralment from the terrestrial bonds which keeps them down chained to our planet; the other is owing to a lack of “celestial magnet.”3 The latter becomes the lot of those souls which having despaired have violently broken the chain of life, hence of their equilibrium, and have to remain in consequence in a state of absolute helplessness until a generous embodied soul volunteers to share with them its magnetism and life, and so helps them in time to re-enter into the current of universal life by furnishing the needed polarization.
You know what that word means. It is borrowed from astronomy and physical science. Stars have opposite and analogous poles which determine the position of their axis; and natural as well as artificial magnets have the same. The law of polarization is universal and rules the world of spirits as that of physical bodies.
Theosophist, July, 1881
1 The Kabalistic theory is, that a man having so many years, days, and hours to live upon earth and not one minute less than the period allotted to him by fate whenever the Ego gets consciously and deliberately rid of its body before the hour marked, for then must it still live even as a disembodied suffering soul. The Ego, or the sentient individual soul is unable to free itself from the attraction of the earth and has to vegetate and suffer all the torments of the mythical hell in it. It becomes an Elementary Spirit; and when the hour of deliverance strikes, the soul having learned nothing, and in its mental torture lost the remembrance of the little it knew on earth it is violently ejected out of the earth’s atmosphere and carried adrift, a prey to the blind current which forces it into some new reincarnation which the soul itself is unable to select as it otherwise might with the help of its good actions. . . .
2 It would be an error to infer from the above that Éliphas Lévi believed in the so-called Spiritualism. He derided both the Spiritualistic and the Spiritist theory of the return of the disembodied souls or spirits in an objective or materialized form on earth. Teaching the Kabalistic doctrine of the subjective inter-communication between the embodied and the disembodied spirits, and the mutual influence exercised by those souls that influence is limited by him to purely psychological and moral effects, and lasts but so long as the pure soul slumbers in its transitory state in the ether, or the sinful one (the Elementary Spirit) is kept in bondage in the earthly regions.
3 Celestial magnet means here that spiritual buoyancy, (the absence of sinful deeds and thoughts supposed to be possessed of a material heaviness) which alone is enabled to carry the disembodied Soul to higher or rather to purer regions.