Monday, February 22, 2016


The Qabalah - Secret Tradition of the West - 3

Having hinted at the formidable extent of the work to be tackled, Eliphas Levi, who had drunk deep of both mysticism and logged up a very considerable range of life experience, proceeds to set his aspiring student upon the right course with the right attitude, which is a high respect for the Tarot along with a religious dynamic that is both ancient and modern, Jewish and Christian, Egyptian and Greek, and even further afield.


Dear sir and brother,

The Bible gives two names to man. The first is Adam, which means ‘drawn from the earth’, or ‘the man of earth.’ The second is Enos or Enoch, which means ‘divine man’ or ‘risen to God.’ 

According to Genesis it is Enos (as principle of beings) to whom Adam addressed his public worship. And Enos was, like Enoch, raised alive to heaven, after having inscribed the basic elements of religion and universal science onto two stones – called the columns of Hénoch.

This Hénoch was not a person, but a personification of humanity raised by religion and science to the level of immortality. In the epoch called by the name of Enos or Hénoch, the worship of God, and the principle of  priesthood appeared on Earth. Thus civilisation began – along with writing.

The civilising spirit that the Hebrews personified in Hénoch the Egyptians called Trismegistus and the Greeks Kadmos or Cadmus, he who, to the notes of the lyre of Amphion,  saw the living stones of Thebes rise and arrange themselves. {Hermes taught Amphion music and gave him a beautiful golden lyre to the music of which the stones of the walls of Thebes, of which he became king, moved to their right places. GK. }

The primitive holy book, the book that Postel {Guillaume Postel, 1510-81, French Kabbalist} called the genesis of Hénoch, is the first source of Kabalah or tradition, at the same time divine,  human and religious. There, in all its simplicity, appears the revelation of supreme intelligence to the reason and love of man. Eternal law ruling infinite expansion. Numbers in infinite extension. Numbers in immensity and immensity in numbers. Poetry in mathematics and mathematics in poetry.

Who would believe that the inspirational book of all religious theories and symbols had been conserved, and  remained so until ourselves, in the form of a game of  cards? Nothing is more evident however as, in the last century, Court de Gebelin, followed by all who have seriously studied the symbolism of these cards, was the first to discover.

The alphabet and the ten signs for numbers. There is certainly nothing more elementary in the sciences. Join the signs of the four cardinal points of the heavens, or the four seasons, and you have the complete book of Hénoch. Where each sign represents an absolute, or if you will, an essential, idea.

The form of each number and each letter has its mathematical reason and hieroglyphic significance. The ideas, inseparable from the numbers, follow the function of numbers in acquiring exactitude.  The book of Hénoch is ultimately the arithmetic of thought.

Yours in the sacred science, Eliphas Levi.

{We may perhaps discern from these remarks Papus’ apparent obsession with number theory in his book on Tarot. Although whether he got it right may be another matter. G.K. }


Dear Sir and Brother,

Court de Gebelin saw in the twenty two keys of the Tarot the representation of the Egyptian mysteries and attributed their invention to Hermes or Mercury Trismegistus, who has also been called Thaut or Thoth. It is certain that the hieroglyphs of the Tarot are found on the ancient monuments of Egypt.  It is certain that the signs of this book, traced in synoptic groups on steles or metallic tables, like the Isiac table of Bembo, were also reproduced separately on carved stones or on medals, that later became amulets and talismans. They thus divided the pages of the infinite book into diverse combinations – to assemble, transpose and dispose in ever new ways the inexhaustible oracles of truth.

I possess one of these antique talismans, given me by one of my friends, a traveller in Egypt. It represents the Binary of Cycles, or popularly, the Two of Coins. It is the figurative expression of the great law of polarisation and equilibrium, producing harmony by the analogy of contraries. This is how the symbol appears in the Tarot we possess – S.  The medal I have, that is still for sale nowadays, is roughly like a five franc silver piece but thicker. The two polar cycles are drawn exactly like our Italian Tarot, a lotus flower with an aureole or nimbus. {It is worth taking a look at the 2 of Coins in a commercial playing card Tarot pack, such as the M\arseilles, to see if it features the figure that Eliphas Levi is describing. GK.}

The astral current that at the same time separates and attracts the two polar foci is represented in an Egyptian talisman by the goat of Mendes placed between two vipers, analogous to the serpents of the caduceus. On the reverse of the medal one sees an adept or Egyptian priest who, being substituted for Mendes between the two cycles of universal equilibrium, drives the animal down an avenue planted with trees, the goat become docile  under the wand of the man imitating God.

The ten signs for numbers, the twenty two letters of the alphabet and the four astronomical signs of the seasons are the summary and résumé of all the Kabala.  Twenty two letters and ten numbers give the thirty two paths of the Sepher Jetzirah; four giving the Mercavah and the Schemhamphoresh. It is as simple as a childrens’ game and as complicated as the hardest problems of pure mathematics. Naive and profound – like truth or nature. They are the four elemental astronomical signs – under the four forms of the sphinx and the four animals of Ezekiel and St. John.

Yours in the sacred science, Eliphas Levi.


Dear Sir and Brother,

The knowledge of Kabalah makes it impossible to doubt the matter of religion, because it alone reconciles reason with faith and shows that this universal dogma, diversely formulated but in the end always and everywhere the same, is the purest expression of the aspirations of the human spirit lit by the necessary faith.

It helps us understand the use of religious practices, that by fixing the attention strengthen the will, and throw a superior light on all cults. It proves that the most efficacious of all cults are those which, by their effective signs, approach the divinity of man in some way –  make him see, touch and in some way incorporate it.

Which includes the Catholic religion.

This religion may popularly seem the most absurd because, it is the most revealed. I use this word in its true sense, revelare, ‘re-veil’, ‘veil again’. It is said in the Gospels that at the death of Christ the veil of the temple was torn through. It follows that all the dogmatic work of the Church through the ages has been to weave and embroider a new veil.

It is true that the heads of it, through wanting to be princes, for a long time lost the keys of high initiation, which prevented the letter of dogma from being sacred and the sacraments from being efficacious. I have explained in my works how Catholic Christian worship is high magic organised and regularised by symbolism and hierarchy. A combination of ways of help offered to human weakness to maintain its will to the good.

Nothing has been neglected, neither mysterious and dark temple, nor incense that calms and exalts at the same time, nor prolonged and monotonous chants that soothe the brain to a light somnambulism. Its dogma, which may seem obscure formulae to the despair of reason, serves as a barrier to the petulance of the inexperienced and indiscrete critic. It appears unfathomable, the better to represent the infinite.

Even the liturgy, celebrated in a tongue that the mass of the people do not understand, widens the thought of those who pray, leaving them to find in prayer all that is in rapport with the needs of the spirit and the heart. That is why the Catholic religion resembles the fabulous sphinx, which renews itself from century to century, and is ever reborn from its ashes.

This great mystery of faith is quite simply a mystery of nature. It seems an enormous paradox if one says that the Catholic religion is the only one that can truly be called natural. However, this is true, since only it satisfies fully the natural need of man – which is the religious sense.

Yours in the sacred science,  Eliphas Levi.

{The above analysis of the benefits of established religious worship is worth pondering – unwelcome as it may appear to the agnostic, neo-pagan or even protestant. It may also be none too welcome, for different reasons, to the committed Roman Catholic, being a psychological  analysis of religious worship and the sacraments.

 The  overtly Catholic assumptions are due to the time of writing when Christian worship in France was 98% Catholic, with the Mass celebrated in Latin. Levi’s remarks seem primarily addressed  to an esoteric student who has lost touch with or is in some doubt about traditional forms of religious belief or practice – possibly to his own detriment. GK. }


If  Christian Catholic dogma is kabalistic we should also include the great sanctuaries of the ancient world. The legend of Krishna, that gave the Bhaghavadam, is a true gospel, similar to ours, although more naive and bright. The incarnations of Vishnu are ten in number, like the Sephiroth of the Kabala, and form a revelation more complete, in some ways, than our own.

 Osiris was killed by Typhon, then resurrected by Isis. That is the Christ repudiated by the Jews, then honoured in the person of his mother.

 The Thebiad is a great religious epic that should placed beside the great symbol of Prometheus.

Antigone is a type of divine woman as pure as Mary. Everywhere the good triumphs through voluntary sacrifice after having suffered for a time the unruly assaults of fatal force. Even the rites are symbolic and transfer from one religion to another. The tiaras, the mitres, the robes appear in all the great religions.

Some might therefore conclude that all are false, but it is their own conclusion that is false. The truth is that religion is one, like humanity. Progressive like humanity. Remaining ever the same by always transforming.

If with the Egyptians Jesus Christ is called Osiris, with the Scandinavians Osiris is called Balder. He is killed by the wolf Jeuris, but Woden or Odin recall him to life, and the Walkyries themselves bring him hydromel in Valhalla. The scaldes, the druids, the bards sing the death and resurrection of Tarenis or Téténus, distributing to their faithful the sacred gui like we drink, blessed at the feasts of the summer solstice to render a cult that  inspired the virginity of the priestesses of the Ile de Seyne.

We can thus, in all conscience and with all reason, accomplish the duties that our maternal religion imposes on us. The practices are collective acts, repeated with direct and persevering intention.

 Such acts are always useful to employ and, by strengthening the will, of which they are the gymnastics, they cause us to arrive at the spiritual end we seek to attain. Magical acts and magnetic passes have no other end, and give analogous results, to religious practices, but more imperfectly.

How many men lack the energy to say what they want or do what they should? Yet there are great numbers of women who devote themselves, without discouragement, to work as difficult and demanding as nursing and teaching! Where do they find such strength? In little repeated practices. They say the holy office and their chaplet every day and give praise on their knees in personal examination.

Yours in the science, Eliphas Levi


Religion is not a servitude imposed on man, it is a help that is offered to him. The priestly castes have ever sought to exploit, to sell and to transform this help into an insupportable yoke, but the evangelical work of Jesus had for its aim to separate religion from the priest – or at least to put the priest back in his place as minister or server of the religion, rendering all his freedom and reason to the consciousness of man.

See the parable of the good Samaritan and those precious texts that ‘the law is made for man and not man for the law’. Ill fortune to those who read and impose on the shoulders of others the burdens they themselves would only deign to touch with their finger tips (etc., etc.).

 The official Church calls itself infallible in the Apocalypse, which is the kabalistic key to the gospels. There has always been in Christianity an occult or Johanite church that, while respecting the necessity of the official Church, conserved an interpretation of dogma quite other from that given to the populace.

Before the French Revolution the Templars, Rosicrucians and high grade Freemasons all belonged to the Church of which Martinez Pasqualis, Saint-Martin and even Mme Krodemer were the apostles in the last century. The distinctive character of that school was to avoid publicity and never to constitute a dissident sect. Count Joseph de Maistre, that so radical a Catholic, was, more than is realised, sympathetic to the Martinist society and announced a new regeneration of dogma by the light that came from the occult sanctuaries. {We, like Papus, will have more to say about Martinism as we progress. GK.}

The disturbing character of this school was that there now once more existed fervent priests initiated into the old doctrine. One bishop, amongst others, on approaching death, asked me for kabalistic communications.

The disciples of Saint-Martin, called ‘the unknown philosophers’, and those of a modern master, quite happy to be ignored, had no need to take any name, for the world did not suspect their existence. Jesus had said that the leaven should be hidden at the bottom of the vessel that contained the dough, to work day and night in silence until little by little the fermentation had penetrated the whole loaf that was to become bread.

An initiate can thus with simplicity and sincerity practise the religion into which he was born, for all its rites represent diversely a single and same doctrine. But he should only reveal the depths of his conscience to God – and  not tell anyone his most intimate beliefs.

The priest should not judge what the Pope himself does not understand.

The external signs of the initiate are modesty in knowledge, discrete philanthropy, balanced character and permanent good will.

Yours in the sacred science, Eliphas Levi.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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