Eliphas Levi

Another of the writers found in the library of Joseph Curwen.  And this writer was specific to the magical arts, unlike the scientific leanings of many of the other authors found in the library.

Eliphas Levi was the Hebrew pen name of Alphonse Louis Constant (c. 1810-75), a demonographer and adept who claimed to possess the secret of ancient magic and to have evoked the specter of the old Grecian wizard Apollonius of Tyana, who lived in Nero's time. His two books are "Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie" (1854-6) and "Histoire de la Magie" (1860) which were translated by A. E. Waite in the late nineteenth century as "Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual" (Redway, London, 1896 (referred to in the text and notes as "Doctrine and Ritual of Magic") and "The History of Magic" (Dutton, n.d.) respectively.

[The Case of Charles Dexter Ward - H.P.L.]

Constant was born in 1810 in Paris. A bright young man, Constant was educated into the priesthood. Soon after he was thrown out for preaching "doctrines contrary to the church.' In his late twenties, a literary friend, Alphonse Esquiros, took him to be amused by a recitation by the strange prophet Ganneau, an aged man who wore a woman's cloak and babbled about the creation of the universe and the fall of man. Both young men were impressed by Ganneau's eloquence and became his disciples. At 30, Constant married Noémie Cadiot, a 16-year-old girl who bore him two sons and deserted him. As he grew in his magic studies he became a fringe member of the literati. He was influenced by Francis Barrett of Cambridge and was acquainted with Bulwer-Lytton. In 1854 he attempted to communicate with the spirit of Apollonius of Tyana. In 1856 he wrote his "Dogma and Ritual of High Magic" ("Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie"). The twenty-two chaptered work is based on the trump cards of the Tarot, and has a short section in the twelfth chapter (the Hanged Man is the twelfth card) 'explaining' the Hanged Man as a symbol of Prometheus, whose feet are planted in heaven and whose head only touches the earth, 'the free and immolated adept, the revealer menaced with death.' But then, if you look at the cards, his feet are not in heaven and his head doesn't touch the earth. Constant was often more imaginative than accurate. Even A.E. Waite, his translator, took him with a grain of salt. While writing his "Histoire de la Magie" he converted to the Catholic faith. While he no longer accepted magic as the one true faith he continued to write a number of other occult monographs. By this death in 1875 he had gathered a large following and almost single-handedly revived the interest in magic.

His great premise was that: "Behind the veil of all the hieretic and mystical allegories of ancient doctrines, behind the darkness and strange ordeals of all initiations, under the seal of all sacred writings, in the ruins of old Nineveh or Thebes, on the crumbling stones of old temples and on the blackened visage of the Assyrian or Egyptian sphynx, in the monstrous or marvellous paintings which interpret to the faithful of India the inspired pages of the Vedas, in the cryptic emblems of our old books on alchemy, in the ceremonies practised at reception by all secret societies, there are found indications of a doctrine which is everywhere the same and everywhere carefully concealed." Of course this is

An unfortunate aspect is that Aleister Crowley, the self-proclaimed high priest of magic, also claimed to be the reincarnation of Eliphas Levi. As such he wrote "The Key of the Mysteries" which is certainly more Crowley that Eliphas Levi.

Also by Eliphas Levi:

Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum, Levi's explanation of the Tarot Trumps with a short description of each Tarot Trump at the end of each chapter, and also a few notes on the mystical meanings assigned to the Tarots by Levi in his other works.

Paradoxes of the Highest Science, In which the most advanced truths of occultism are for the first time revealed (in order to reconcile the future developments of science and philosophy with the eternal religion). Religion is magic, sanctioned by authority; Liberty is obedience to the Law; Love is the realization of the impossible; Knowledge is the ignorance or negation of Evil; Reason is God; The imagination realizes what it invents; The Will accomplishes everything which it does not desire. Synthetic Recapitulation, Magic-Magism; The Unalterable Principles; and The Great Secret.

The History of Magic: Including a Clear, and Precise Exposition of its Procedure, Rites and Mysteries, Translation, preface and notes by A.E. Waite. The first part of the book explains the principles and teaching underlying magical operations; with chapters describing: the Pillars of the Temple; Triangle of Solomon; Magical Virtues of the Tetrad; Elementary Spirits of the Kabalah; Power over Elements and Spirits; Fiery Sword; Seven Angels and Seven Genii of the Planets; Magical Lamp, Mantle, and Staff of the Kabalah; Magnetic Currents; Hermetic Magic; Evocations; Transmutations; Demonomania; Bewitchments Astrology; Charms and Philtres; talismans; Stone of the Philosophers; Divination and Alchemy. The second part deals with the actual ritual and practice of Transcendent Magic and describes the Principles of Magical Operation; Magical Equilibrium; Triangle of Pantacles; Magical Trident of Paracelsus; Manner of overcoming and subjecting Elementary Spirits and Maleficent Genii; blazing Pentagram; Ceremonies, Vestments, and Perfumes proper to the seven days of the week; Ceremonial of Initiates; Use of Pentacles; Necromancy; Transmutations; Witchcraft and Spells; Book of Hermes; Nuctemeron of Apollonius of Tyana.

("The Case of Charles Dexter Ward")