Eliphas Levi – Magician, Mystic, Philosopher.
“In the middle of the nineteenth century, there arose a very great Qabalist and scholar, who still annoys dull people by his habit of diverting himself at their expense by making fools of them posthumously. His name was Alphonse Louis Constant, and he was an Abbé of the Roman Church. For his “nom-de-guerre” he translated his name into Hebrew-Eliphas Levi Zahed, and he is very generally known as Eliphas Levi. Eliphas Levi was a philosopher and an artist, besides being a supreme literary stylist and a practical joker of the variety called “Pince sans rire”; and, being an artist and a profound symbolist, he was immensely attracted by the Tarot. While in England, he proposed to Kenneth Mackenzie, a famous occult scholar and high-grade Freemason, to reconstitute and issue a scientifically-designed pack.” Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth
Eliphas Levi was a highly influential magician and mystic born in France in 1810. He published a number of works on the subject of occultism and magick where he offered a number of definitions.
For example, in his book, “The Threshold of Magical Science” he wrote, “To practise magic is to be a quack; to know magic is to be a sage” and “Magic is the divinity of man achieved in union with faith...”
Eliphas Levi identified three fundamental principles of magic:
1. The first principle is that the material universe is only a small part of total reality. There are many other planes and modes of consciousness and as such full knowledge and awareness of the universe is only attainable through the experience of these other aspects of reality. Levi proposed that one of the most important aspects of reality is the “astral light”, a cosmic fluid which may be moulded by will into physical forms.
2. The second principle is that human willpower is a dynamic and active force, capable of great achievement, from the mundane to the miraculous. He wrote: “Nothing can resist the will of man when he knows what is true and wills what is good.” and “The will of a just man is the Will of God Himself and the Law of Nature.”
3. The third principle is that the human being is a microcosm, a miniature of the macrocosmic universe, and the two are fundamentally linked. Causes set in motion on one level may equally have effects on another. He wrote: “Man is the God of the world, and God is the man of Heaven.”
Perhaps Eliphas Levi’s most important teaching involves that of symbolism, writing of the tarot Levi proposed, “An imprisoned person, with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire universal knowledge, and would be able to speak on all subjects with unequalled learning and inexhaustible eloquence. ”
Far from being merely a divination tool, the tarot is a complex set of arcane and metaphoric symbols developed over time and incorporated into the foundation of the Western cabala based magical traditions.
It is Levi’s concept of symbolism that is developed by the British neurolinguist and therapist, Andrew T. Austin, in his work based on Metaphors of Movement.
In honour of Eliphas Levi, Andrew T. Austin writes, “Locked alone in a room armed only with language, symbols and the knowledge of how to use them, a person will be able to unlock the mysteries of the universe. The requisite language and symbols already resides within us all, the Metaphors of Movement model provides the key to that knowledge.”
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For those interested in the symbolism and metaphors of the tarot, I recommend buying a set of Aleister Crowley’s “Thoth” tarot along with his book by the same name. These are readily available from most book stores and new-age retailers.