The Key of the Mysteries
(La Clef des Grands Mystères)

By
Eliphas Levi

THE KEY OF THE MYSTERIES
ACCORDING TO
ENOCH, ABRAHAM, HERMES TRISMEGISTES
AND SOLOMON
BY
ELIPHAS LEVI
TRANSLATED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ALEISTER CROWLEY

BOOK II

MAGICAL MYSTERIES

CHAPTER I

THEORY OF THE WILL

HUMAN life and its innumerable difficulties have for object, in the ordination of eternal wisdom, the education of the will of man.

The dignity of man consists in doing what he will, and in willing the good, in conformity with the knowledge of truth.

The good in conformity with the true, is the just.

Justice is the practice of reason.

Reason is the work of reality.

Reality is the science of truth.

Truth is idea identical with being.

Man arrives at the absolute idea of being by two roads, experience and hypothesis.

Hypothesis is probable when it is necessitated by the teachings of experience; it is improbable or absurd when it is rejected by this teaching.

Experience is science, and hypothesis is faith.

True science necessarily admits faith; true faith necessarily reckons with science.

Pascal blasphemed against science, when he said that by reason man could not arrive at the knowledge of any truth. {234}

In fact, Pascal died mad.

But Voltaire blasphemed no less against science, when he declare that every hypothesis of faith was absurd, and admitted for the rule of reason only the witness of the senses.

Moreover, the last word of Voltaire was this contradictory formula: “GOD AND LIBERTY.”

God! that is to say, a Supreme Master, excludes every idea of liberty, as the school of Voltaire understood it.

And Liberty, by which is meant an absolute independence of any master, which excludes all idea of God.

The word GOD expresses the supreme personification of law, and by consequence, of duty; and if by the word LIBERTY, you are willing to accept our interpretation, THE RIGHT OF DOING ONE’S DUTY, we in our turn will take it for a motto, and we shall repeat, without contradiction and without error: “GOD AND LIBERTY.”

As there is no liberty for man but in the order which results from the true and the good, one may say that the conquest of liberty is the great work of the human soul. Man, by freeing himself from his evil passions and their slavery, creates himself, as it were, a second time. Nature made him living and suffering; he makes himself happy and immortal; he thus becomes the representative of divinity upon earth, and (relatively) exercises its almighty power.

 

AXIOM I

Nothing resists the will of man, when he knows the truth, and wills the good. {235}

 

AXIOM II

To will evil, is to will death. A perverse will is a beginning of suicide.

 

AXIOM III

To will good with violence, is to will evil, for violence produces disorder, and disorder produces evil.

 

AXIOM IV

One can, and one should, accept evil as the means of good; but one must never will it or do it, otherwise one would destroy with one hand what one builds with the other. Good faith never justifies bad means; it corrects them when one undergoes them, and condemns them when one takes them.

 

AXIOM V

To have the right to possess always, one must will patiently and long.

 

AXIOM VI

To pass one’s life in willing that it is impossible to possess always, is to abdicate life and accept the eternity of death.

 

AXIOM VII

The more obstacles the will surmounts, the stronger it is. It is for this reason that Christ glorified poverty and sorrow.

 

AXIOM VIII

When the will is vowed to the absurd, it is reproved by eternal reason.

 

AXIOM IX

The will of the just man is the will of God himself, and the law of Nature. {236}

 

AXIOM X

It is by the will that the intelligence sees. If the will is healthy, the sight is just. God said: “Let there be light!” and light is; the will says, “Let the world be as I will to see it!” and the intelligence sees it as the will has willed. This is the meaning of the word, “So be it,” which confirms acts of faith.

 

AXIOM XI

When one creates phantoms for oneself, one puts vampires into the world, and one must nourish these children of a voluntary nightmare with one’s blood, one’s life, one’s intelligence, and one’s reason, without ever satisfying them.

 

AXIOM XII

To affirm and to will what ought to be is to create; to affirm and will what ought not to be, is to destroy.

 

AXIOM XIII

Light37 is an electric fire put by Nature at the service of the will; it lights those who know how to use it, it burns those who abuse it.

 

AXIOM XIV

The empire of the world is the empire of the light.37

 

AXIOM XV

Great intellects whose wills are badly balanced are like comets which are aborted suns.

 

AXIOM XVI

To do nothing is as fatal as to do evil, but it is more cowardly. The most unpardonable of mortal sins is inertia. {237}

37 Meaning again the special "light" spoken of previously.—TRANS

 

AXIOM XVII

To suffer is to work. A great sorrow suffered is a progress accomplished. Those who suffer much live more than those who do not suffer.

 

AXIOM XVIII

Voluntary death from devotion is not suicide; it is the apotheosis of the will.

 

AXIOM XIX

Fear is nothing but idleness of the will, and for that reason public opinion scourges cowards.

 

AXIOM XX

Succeed in not fearing the lion, and the lion will fear you. Say to sorrow: “I will that you be a pleasure, more even than a pleasure, a happiness.”

 

AXIOM XXI

A chain of iron is easier to break than a chain of flowers.

 

AXIOM XXII

Before saying that a man is happy or unhappy, find out what the direction of his will has made of him: Tiberius died every day at Capri, while Jesus proved his immortality and even his divinity on Calvary and upon the Cross.

{238}

CHAPTER II

THE POWER OF THE WORD

It is the word which creates forms; and forms in their turn react upon the word, in order to modify it and complete it.

Every word of truth is a beginning of an act of justice.

One asks if man may sometimes be necessarily driven to evil. Yes, when his judgment is false, and consequently his word unjust.

But one is responsible for a false judgment as for a bad action.

What falsifies the judgment is selfishness and its unjust vanities.

The unjust word, unable to realize itself by creation, realizes itself by destruction. It must either slay or be slain.

If it were able to remain without action, it would be the greatest of all disorders, an abiding blasphemy against truth.

Such is that idle word of which Christ has said that one will give account at the Day of Judgment. A jesting word, a comicality which recreates and causes laughter, is not an idle word.

The beauty of the word is a splendour of truth. A true word in always beautiful, a beautiful word is always true.

For this reason works of art are always holy when they are beautiful. {239}

What does it matter to me that Anacreon should sing of Bathyllus, if in his verse I hear the notes of that divine harmony which is the eternal hymn of beauty? Poetry is pure as the Sun: it spreads its veil of light over the errors of humanity. Woe to him who would lift the veil in order to perceive things ugly!

The Council of Trent decided that it was permissible for wise and prudent persons to read the books of the ancients, even those which were obscene, on account of the beauty of the form. A statue of Nero or of Heliogabalus made like a masterpiece of Phidias, would it not be an absolutely beautiful and absolutely good work?—and would not he deserve the execration of the whole world who would propose to break it because it was the representation of a monster?

Scandalous statues are those which are badly sculptured, and the Venus of Milo would be desecrated if one placed her beside some of the Virgins which they dare to exhibit in certain churches.

One realizes evil in books of morality ill-written far more than in the poetry of Catullus or the ingenious Allegories of Apuleius.

There are no bad books, except those which are badly conceived and badly executed.

Every word of beauty is a word of truth. It is a light crystallized in speech.

But in order that the most brilliant light may be produced and made visible, a shadow is necessary; and the creative word, that it may become efficacious, needs contradictions. It must submit to the ordeal of negation, of sarcasm, and then to that more cruel yet, of indifference and forgetfulness. {240} The Master said: “If a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

Affirmation and negation must, then, marry each other, and from their union will be born the practical truth, the real and progressive word. It is necessity which should constrain the workmen to choose for the corner-stone that which they had at first despised and rejected. Let contradiction, then, never discourage men of initiative! Earth is necessary for the ploughshare, and the earth resists because it is in labour. It defends itself like all virgins; it conceives and brings forth slowly like all mothers. You, then, who wish to sow a new plant in the field of intelligence, understand and respect the modesties and reluctances of limited experience and slow-moving reason.

When a new word comes into the world, it needs swaddling clothes and bandages; genius brought it forth, but it is for experience to nourish it. Do not fear that it will die of neglect! Oblivion is for it a favourable time of rest, and contradictions help it to grow. When a sun bursts forth in space it creates worlds or attracts them to itself. A single spark of fixed light promises a universe to space.

All magic is in a word, and that word pronounced qabalistically is stronger than all the powers of Heaven, Earth and Hell. With the name of Jod hé vau hé, one commands Nature: kingdoms are conquered in the name of Adonai, and the occult forces which compose the empire of Hermes are one and all obedient to him who knows how to pronounce duly the incommunicable name of Agla.

In order to pronounce duly the great words of the Qabalah, {241} one must pronounce them with a complete intelligence, with a will that nothing checks, an activity that nothing daunts. In magic, to have said is to have done; the word begins with letters, it ends with acts. One does not really will a thing unless one wills it with all one’s heart, to the point of breaking for it one’s dearest affections; and with all one’s forces, to the point of risking one’s health, one’s fortune, and one’s life.

It is by absolute devotion that faith proves itself and constitutes itself. But the man armed with such a faith will be able to move mountains.

The most fatal enemy of our souls is idleness. Inertia intoxicates us and sends us to sleep; but the sleep of inertia is corruption and death. The faculties of the human soul are like the waves of the ocean. To keep them sweet, they need the salt and bitterness of tears: they need the whirlwinds of Heaven: they need to be shaken by the storm.

When, instead of marching upon the path of progress, we wish to have ourselves carried, we are sleeping in the arms of death. It is to us that it is spoken, as to the paralytic man in the Gospel, “Take up thy bed and walk!” It is for us to carry death away, to plunge it into life.

Consider the magnificent and terrible metaphor of St. John; Hell is a sleeping fire. It is a life without activity and without progress; it is sulphur in stagnation: stagnum ignis et sulphuris.

The sleeping life is like the idle word, and it is of that that men will have to give an account in the Day of Judgment.

Intelligence speaks, and matter stirs. It will not rest until it has taken the form given to it by the word. Behold the Christian word, how for these nineteen centuries it has put {242} the world to work! What battles of giants! How many errors set forth and rebutted! How much deceived and irritated Christianity lies at the bottom of Protestantism, from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth! Human egotism, in despair at its defeats, has whipped up all its stupidities in turn. They have re-clothed the Saviour of the world with every rag and with every mocking purple. After Jesus the Inquisitor they have invented the sans-culotte Jesus! Measure if you can all the tears and all the blood that have flowed; calculate audaciously all that will yet be shed before the arrival of the Messianic reign of the Man-God who shall submit at once all passions to powers and all powers to justice. THY KINGDOM COME! For nigh on nineteen hundred years, over the whole surface of the earth, this has been the cry of seven hundred million throats, and the Israelites yet await the Messiah! He said that he would come, and come he will. He came to die, and he has promised to return to live.

HEAVEN IS THE HARMONY OF GENEROUS SENTIMENTS.

HELL IS THE CONFLICT OF COWARDLY INSTINCTS.

When humanity, by dint of bloody and dolorous experience, has truly understood this double truth, it will abjure the Hell of selfishness to enter into the Heaven of devotion and of Christian charity.

The lyre of Orpheus civilized savage Greece, and the lyre of Amphion built Thebes the Mysterious, because harmony is truth. The whole of Nature is harmony. But the Gospel is not a lyre: it is the book of the eternal principles which should and will regulate all the lyres and all the living harmonies of the universe. {243}

While the world does not understand these three words: Truth, Reason, Justice, and these: Duty, Hierarchy, Society, the revolutionary motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” will be nothing but a threefold lie.

CHAPTER III

MYSTERIOUS INFLUENCES

NO middle course is possible. Every man is either good or bad. The indifferent, the lukewarm are not good; they are consequently bad, and the worst of all the bad, for they are imbecile and cowardly. The battle of life is like a civil war; those who remain neutral betray both parties alike, and renounce the right to be numbered among the children of the fatherland.

We all of us breathe in the life of others, and we breathe upon them in some sort a part of our own existence. Good and intelligent men are, unknown to themselves, the doctors of humanity; foolish and wicked men are public poisoners.

There are people in whose company one feel refreshed. Look at that young society woman! She chatters, she laughs, she dresses like everybody else; why, then, is everything in her better and more perfect? Nothing is more natural than her manner, nothing franker and more nobly free than her conversation. Near her everything should be at its ease, except bad sentiments, but near her they are impossible. She does not seek hearts, but draws them to herself and lifts them up. She does not intoxicate, she {244} enchants. Her whole personality preaches a perfection more amiable than virtue itself. She is more gracious than grace, her acts are easy and inimitable, like fine music and poetry. It is of her that a charming woman, too friendly to be her rival, said after a ball: “I thought I saw the Holy Bible frolicking.”

Now look upon the other side of the sheet! See this other woman who affects the most rigid devotion, and would be scandalized if she heard the angels sing; but her talk is malevolent, her glance haughty and contemptuous; when she speaks of virtue she makes vice lovable. For her God is a jealous husband, and she makes a great merit of not deceiving him. Her maxims are desolating, her actions due to vanity more than to charity, and one might say after having met her at church: “I have seen the devil at prayer.”

On leaving the first, one feels one’s self full of love for all that is beautiful, good and generous. One is happy to have well said to her all the noble things with which she has inspired you, and to have been approved by her. One says to one’s self that life is good, since God has bestowed it on such souls as hers; one is full of courage and of hope. The other leaves you weakened and baffled, or perhaps, what is worse, full of evil designs; she makes you doubt of honour, piety and duty; in her presence one only escapes from weariness by the door of evil desires. One has uttered slander to please her, humiliated one’s self to flatter her pride, one remains discontented with her and with one’s self.

The lively and certain sentiment of these diverse influences is proper to well-balanced spirits and delicate consciences, {245} and it is precisely that which the old ascetic writers called the power of discerning spirits.

You are cruel consolers, said Job to his pretended friends. It is, in fact, the vicious that afflict rather than console. They have a prodigious tact for finding and choosing the most desperate banalities. Are you weeping for a broken affection? How simple you are! they were playing with you, they did not love you. You admit sorrowfully that your child limps; in friendly fashion, they bid you remark that he is a hunchback. If he coughs and that alarms you, they conjure you tenderly to take great care of him, perhaps he is consumptive. Has you wife been ill for a long time? Cheer up, she will die of it!

Hope and work is the message of Heaven to us by the voice of all good souls. Despair and die, Hell cries to us in every word and movement, even in all the friendly acts and caresses of imperfect or degraded beings.

Whatever the reputation of any one may be, and whatever may be the testimonies of friendship that that person may give you, if, on leaving him, you feel yourself less well disposed and weaker, he is pernicious for you: avoid him.

Our double magnetism produces in us two sorts of sympathies. We need to absorb and to radiate turn by turn. Our heart loves contrasts, and there are few women who have loved two men of genius in succession.

One finds peace through the protection which one’s own weariness of admiration gives; it is the law of equilibrium; but sometimes even sublime natures are surprised in caprices of vulgarity. Man, said the Abbe Gerbert, is the shadow of {246} a God in the body of a beast; there are in him the friends of the angel and the flatterers of the animal. The angel attracts us; but if we are not on our guard, it is the beast that carries us away: it will even drag us fatally with it when it is a question of beastliness; that is to say, of the satisfactions of that life the nourisher of death, which, in the language of beasts is called “real life.” In religion, the Gospel is a sure guide; it is not so in business, and there are a great many people who, if they had to settle the temporal succession of Jesus Christ, would more willingly come to an agreement with Judas Iscariot than with St. Peter.

One admires probity, said Juvenal, and one leaves it to freeze to death. If such and such a celebrated man, for example, had not scandalously solicited wealth, would one ever have thought of endowing his old muse? Who would have left him legacies?

Virtue has our admiration, our purse owes it nothing, that great lady is rich enough without us. One would rather give to vice, it is so poor!

“I do not like beggars, and I only give to the poor who are ashamed to beg,” said one day a man of wit. “But what do you give them since you do not know them?” “I give them my admiration and my esteem, and I have no need to know them to do that.” “How is it that you need so much money?” they asked another, “you have no children and no calls on you.” “I have my poor folk, and I cannot prevent myself from giving them a great deal of money.” “Make me acquainted with the, perhaps I will give them something too.” “Oh! you know some of them already, I have no doubt. I have seven who cost me an enormous amount, and {247} an eighth who costs more than the seven others. The seven are the seven deadly sing; the eighth is gambling.”

Another dialogue:—

“Give me five francs, sir, I am dying of hunger.” “Imbecile! you are dying of hunger, and you want me to encourage you in so evil a course? You are dying of hunger, and you have the impudence to admit it. You wish to make me the accomplice of your incapacity, the abetter of your suicide. You want to put a premium on wretchedness. For whom do you take me? Do you think I am a rascal like yourself? ...”

And yet another:—

“By the way, old fellow, could you lend me a thousand pounds? I want to seduce an honest woman.” “Ah! that is bad, but I can never refuse anything to a friend. Here they are. When you have succeeded you might give me her address.” That is what is called in England, and elsewhere, the manners of a gentleman.

“The man of honour who is out of work steals, and does not beg!” replied, one day, Cartouche to a passer-by who asked alms of him. It is as emphatic as the word which tradition associates with Cambronne, and perhaps the famous thief and the great general both really replied in the same manner.

It was that same Cartouche who offered, on another occasion, of his own accord and without it being asked of him, twenty thousand pounds to a bankrupt. One must act properly to one’s brothers.

Mutual assistance is a law of nature. To aid those who are like ourselves is to aid ourselves. But above mutual {248} assistance rises a holier and greater law: it is universal assistance, it is charity.

We all admire and love Saint Vincent de Paul, but we have also a secret weakness for the cleverness, the presence of mind, and, above all, the audacity of Cartouche.

The avowed accomplices of our passions may disgust us by humiliating us; at our own risk and peril our pride will teach us how to resist them. But what is more dangerous for us than our hypocritical and hidden accomplices? They follow us like sorrow, await us like the abyss, surround us like infatuation. We excuse them in order to excuse ourselves, defending them in order to defend ourselves, justifying them in order to justify ourselves, and we submit to them finally because we must, because we have not the strength to resist our inclinations, because we lack the will to do so.

They have possessed themselves of our ascendant, as Paracelsus says, and where they wish to lead us we shall go.

They are our bad angels. We know it in the depths of our consciousness; but we put up with them, we have made ourselves their servants that they also may be ours.

Our passions treated tenderly and flattered, have become slave-mistresses; and those who serve our passions our valets, and our masters.

We breathe out our thoughts and breathe in those of others imprinted in the astral light which has become their electro-magnetic atmosphere: and thus the companionship of the wicked is less fatal to the good than that of vulgar, cowardly, and tepid beings. Strong antipathy warns us easily, and saves us from the contact of gross vices; it is not thus with disguised vices vices to a certain extend diluted {249} and become almost lovable. An honest woman will experience nothing but disgust in the society of a prostitute, but she has everything to fear from the seductions of a coquette.

One knows that madness is contagious, but the mad are more particularly dangerous when they are amiable and sympathetic. One enters little by little into their circle of ideas, one ends by understanding their exaggerations, while partaking their enthusiasm, one grows accustomed to their logic that has lost its way, one ends by finding that they are not as mad as one thought at first. Thence to believing that they alone are right there is but one step. One likes them, one approves of them, one is as mad as they are.

The affections are free and may be based on reason, but sympathies are of fatalism, and very frequently unreasonable. They depend on the more or less balanced attractions of the magnetic light, and act on men in the same way as upon animals. One will stupidly take pleasure in the society of a person in whom is nothing lovable, because one is mysteriously attracted and dominated by him. And often enough, these strange sympathies began by lively antipathies; the fluids repelled each other at first, and subsequently became balanced.

The equilibrating speciality of the plastic medium of every person is what Paracelsus calls his ascendant, and he gives the name of flagum to the particular reflection of the habitual ideas of each one in the universal light.

One arrives at the knowledge of the ascendant of a person by the sensitive divination of the flagum, and by a persistent direction of the will. One turns the active side of one’s own ascendant towards the passive side of the ascendant of {250} another when one wishes to take hold of that other and dominate him.

The astral ascendant has been divined by other magi, who gave it the name of tourbillon (vortex).

It is, say they, a current of specialized light, representing always the same circle of images, and consequently determined and determining impressions. These vortices exist for men as for stars. “The stars,” said Paracelsus, “breathe out their luminous soul, and attract each other’s radiation. The soul of the earth, prisoner of the fatal laws of gravitation, frees itself by specializing itself, and passes through the instinct of animals to arrive at the intelligence of man. The active portion of this will is dumb, but it preserves in writing the secrets of Nature. The free part can no longer read this fatal writing without instantaneously losing its liberty. One does not pass from dumb and vegetative contemplation to free vibrating thought without changing one’s surroundings and one’s organs. Thence comes the forgetfulness which accompanies birth, and the vague reminiscences of our sickly intuitions, always analogous to the visions of our ecstasies and of our dreams.”

This revelation of that great master of occult medicine throws a fierce light on all the phenomena of somnambulism and of divination. There also, for whoever knows how to find it, is the true key of evocation, and of communication with the fluidic soul of the earth.

Those persons whose dangerous influence makes itself felt by a single touch are those who make part of a fluidic association, or who either voluntarily or involuntarily make use of a current of astral light which has gone astray. Those, {251} for example, who live in isolation, deprived of all communication with humanity, and who are daily in fluidic sympathy with animals gathered together in great number, as is ordinarily the case with shepherds, are possessed of the demon whose name islegion; in their turn they reign despotically over the fluid souls of the flocks that are confided to their care: consequently their good-will or ill-will makes their cattle prosper or die; and this influence of animal sympathy can be exercised by them upon human plastic mediums which are ill defended, owing either to a weak will or a limited intelligence.

Thus are explained the bewitchments which are habitually made by shepherds, and the still quite recent phenomena of the Presbytery of Cideville.

Cideville is a little village of Normandy, where a few years ago were produced phenomena like those which have since occurred under the influence of Mr. Home. M. de Mirville has studied them carefully, and M. Gougenet Desmousseaux has reprinted all the details in a book, published in 1854, entitled Mœurs et pratiques des demons. The most remarkable thing in this latter author is that he seems to divine the existence of the plastic medium or the fluidic body. “We have certainly not two souls,” said he, “but perhaps we have two bodies.” Everything that he says, in fact, would seem to prove this hypothesis. He saw a shepherd whose fluidic form haunted a Presbytery, and who was wounded at a distance by blows inflicted on his astral larva.

We shall here ask of MM. de Mirville and Gougenet Desmousseaux if they take this shepherd for the devil, and if, far or near, the devil such as they conceive him can be scratched {252} or wounded. At that time, in Normandy, the magnetic illnesses of mediums were hardly known, and this unhappy sleep- walker, who ought to have been cared for an cured, was roughly treated and even beaten, not even in his fludic appearance, but in his proper person, by the Vicar himself. That is, one must agree, a singular kind of exorcism! If those violences really took place, and if they may be imputed to a Churchman whom one considers, and who may be, for all we know, very good and very respectable, let us admit that such writers as MM. de Mirville and Gougenet Desmousseaux make themselves not a little his accomplices!

The laws of physical life are inexorable, and in his animal nature man is born a slave to fatality; it is by dint of struggles against his instincts that he may win moral freedom. Two different existences are then possible for us upon the earth; one fatal, the other free. The fatal being is the toy or instrument of a force which he does not direct. Now, when the instruments of fatality meet and collide, the stronger breaks or carries away the weaker; truly emancipated beings fear neither bewitchments nor mysterious influences.

You may reply that an encounter with Cain may be fatal for Abel. Doubtless; but such a fatality is an advantage to the pure and holy victim, it is only a misfortune for the assassin.

Just as among the righteous there is a great community of virtues and merits, there is among the wicked an absolute solidarity of fatal culpability and necessary chastisement. Crime resides in the tendencies of the heart. Circumstances which are almost always independent of the will are the only causes of the gravity of the acts. If fatality had made Nero {253} a slave, he would have become an actor or a gladiator, and would not have burned Rome: would it be to him that one should be grateful for that?

Nero was the accomplice of the whole Roman people, and those who should have prevented them incurred the whole responsibility for the frenzies of this monster. Seneca, Burrhus, Thrasea, Corbulon, theirs is the real guilt of that fearful reign; great men who were either selfish or incapable! The only thing they knew was how to die.

If one of the bears of the Zoological Gardens escaped and devoured several people, would one blame him or his keepers?

Whoever frees himself from the common errors of mankind is obliged to pay a ransom proportional to the sum of these errors: Socrates pays for Aneitus, and Jesus was obliged to suffer a torment whose terror was equal to the whole treason of Judas.

Thus, by paying the debts of fatality, hard-won liberty purchases the empire of the world; it is hers to bind and to unbind. God has put in her hands the keys of Heaven and of Hell.

You men who abandon brutes to themselves wish them to devour you.

The rabble, slaves of fatality, can only enjoy liberty by absolute obedience to the will of free men; they ought to work for those who are responsible for them.

But when the brute governs brutes, when the blind leads the blind, when the leader is as subject to fatality as the masses, what must one expect? What but the most shocking catastrophes? In that we shall never be disappointed.

By admitting the anarchical dogmas of 1789, Louis XVI {254} launched the State upon a fatal slope. From that moment all the crimes of the Revolution weighed upon him alone; he alone had failed in his duty. Robespierre and Marat only did what they had to do. Girondins and Montagnards killed each other in the workings of fatality, and their violent deaths were so many necessary catastrophes; at that epoch there was but one great and legitimate execution, really sacred, really expiatory: that of the King. The principle of royalty would have fallen if that too weak price had escaped. But a transaction between order and disorder was impossible. One does not inherit from those whom one murders; one robs them; and the Revolution rehabilitated Louis XVI by assassinating him. After so many concessions, so many weaknesses, so many unworthy abasements, that man, consecrated a second time by misfortune, was able at least to say, as he walked to the scaffold: “The Revolution is condemned, and I am always the King of France”!

To be just is to suffer for all those who are not just, but it is life: to be wicked is to suffer for one’s self without winning life; it is to deceive one’s self, to do evil, and to win eternal death.

To recapitulate: Fatal influences are those of death. Living influences are those of life. According as we are weaker or stronger in life, we attract or repel witchcraft. This occult power is only too real, but intelligence and virtue will always find the means to avoid its obsessions and its attacks. {255}

CHAPTER IV

MYSTERIES OF PERVERSITY

HUMAN equilibrium is composed of two attractions, one towards death, the other towards life. Fatality is the vertigo which drags us to the abyss; liberty is the reasonable effort which lifts us above the fatal attractions of death. What is mortal sin? It is apostasy from our own liberty; it is to abandon ourselves to the law of inertia. An unjust act is a compact with injustice; now, every injustice is an abdication of intelligence. We fall from that moment under the empire of force whose reactions always crush everything which is unbalanced.

The love of evil and the formal adhesion of the will to injustice are the last efforts of the expiring will. Man, whatever he may do, is more than a brute, and he cannot abandon himself like a brute to fatality. He must choose. He must love. The desperate soul that thinks itself in love with death is still more alive than a soul without love. Activity for evil can and should lead back a man to good, by counter-stroke and by reaction. The true evil, that for which there is no remedy, is inertia.

The abysses of grace correspond to the abysses of perversity. God has often made saints of scoundrels; but He has never done anything with the half- hearted and the cowardly.

Under penalty of reprobation, one must work, one must act. Nature, moreover, sees to this, and if we will not march on with all our courage towards life, she flings us with all {256} her forces towards death. She drags those who will not walk.

A man whom one may call the great prophet of drunkards, Edgar Poe, that sublime madman, that genius of lucid extravagance, has depicted with terrifying reality the nightmares of perversity. ...

“I killed the old man because he squinted.” “I did that because I ought not to have done it.”

There is the terrible antistrophe of Tertullian’s Credo quia absurdum.

To brave God and to insult Him, is a final act of faith. “The dead praise thee not, O Lord,” said the Psalmist; and we might add if we dared: “The dead do not blaspheme thee.”

“O my son!” said a father as he leaned over the bed of his child who had fallen into lethargy after a violent access of delirium: “insult me again, beat me, bite me, I shall feel that you are still alive, but do not rest for ever in the frightful silence of the tomb!”

A great crime always comes to protest against great lukewarmness. A hundred thousand good priests, had their charity been more active, might have prevented the crime of the wretch Verger. The Church has the right to judge, condemn and punish an ecclesiastic who causes scandal; but she has not the right to abandon him to the frenzies of despair and the temptations of misery and hunger.

Nothing is so terrifying as nothingness, and if one could ever formulate the conception of it, if it were possible to admit it, Hell would be a thing to hope for.

This is why Nature itself seeks and imposes expiation as a remedy; that is why chastisement is a chastening, as that {257} great Catholic Count Joseph de Maistre so well understood; this is why the penalty of death is a natural right, and will never disappear from human laws. The stain of murder would be indelible if God did not justify the scaffold; the divine power, abdicated by society and usurped by criminals, would belong to them without dispute. Assassination would then become a virtue when it exercised the reprisals of outraged nature. Private vengeance would protest against the absence of public expiation, and from the splinters of the broken sword of justice anarchy would forge its daggers.

“If God did away with Hell, men would make another in order to defy Him,” said a good priest to us one day. He was right: and it is for that reason that Hell is so anxious to be done away with. Emancipation! is the cry of every vice. Emancipation of murder by the abolition of the pain of death; emancipation of prostitution and infanticide by the abolition of marriage; emancipation of idleness and rapine by the abolition of property. ... So revolves the whirlwind of perversity until it arrives at this supreme and secret formula: Emancipation of death by the abolition of life!

It is by the victories of toil that one escapes from the fatalities of sorrow. What we call death is but the eternal parturition of Nature. Ceaselessly she re-absorbs and takes again to her breast all that is not born of the spirit. Matter, in itself inert, can only exist by virtue of perpetual motion, and spirit, naturally volatile, can only endure by fixing itself. Emancipation from the laws of fatality by the free adhesion of the spirit to the true and good, is what the Gospel calls the spiritual birth; the re-absorption into the eternal bosom of Nature is the second death. {258}

Unemancipated beings are drawn towards this second death by a fatal gravitation; the one drags the other, as the divine Michel Angelo has made us see so clearly in his great picture of the Last Judgment; they are clinging and tenacious like drowning men, and free spirits must struggle energetically against them, that their flight may not be hindered by them, that they may not be pulled back to Hell.

This war is as ancient as the world; the Greeks figured it under the symbols of Eros and Anteros, and the Hebrews by the antagonism of Cain and Abel. It is the war of the Titans and the Gods. The two armies are everywhere invisible, disciplined and always ready for attack or counterattack. Simple-minded folk on both sides, astonished at the instant and unanimous resistance that they meet, begin to believe in vast plots cleverly organized, in hidden, all-powerful societies. Eugène Sue invents Rodin;38 churchmen talk of the Illuminati and of the Freemasons; Wronski dreams of his bands of mystics, and there is nothing true and serious beneath all that but the necessary struggle of order and disorder, of the instincts and of thought; the result of that struggle is balance in progress, and the devil always contributes, despite himself, to the glory of St. Michael.

Physical love is the most perverse of all fatal passions. It is the anarchist of anarchists; it knows neither law, duty, truth nor justice. It would make the maiden walk over the corpses of her parents. It is an irrepressible intoxication; a furious madness. It is the vertigo of fatality seeking new victims; the cannibal drunkenness of Saturn who wishes to {259} become a father in order that he may have more children to devour. To conquer love is to triumph over the whole of Nature. To submit it to justice is to rehabilitate life by devoting it to immortality; thus the greatest works of the Christian revelation are the creation of voluntary virginity and the sanctification of marriage.

38 Not the sculptor.—TRANS.

While love is nothing but a desire and an enjoyment, it is mortal. In order to make itself eternal it must become a sacrifice, for then it becomes a power and a virtue. It is the struggle of Eros and Anteros which produces the equilibrium of the world.

Everything that over-excites sensibility leads to depravity and crime. Tears call for blood. It is with great emotions as with strong drink; to use them habitually is to abuse them. Now, every abuse of the emotions perverts the moral sense; one seeks them for their own sakes; one sacrifices everything in order to procure them for one’s self. A romantic woman will easily become an Old Bailey heroine. She may even arrive at the deplorable and irreparable absurdity of killing herself in order to admire herself, and pity herself, in seeing herself die!

Romantic habits lead women to hysteria and men to melancholia. Manfred, Rene, Lelia are types of perversity only the more profound in that they argue on behalf of their unhealthy pride, and make poems of their dementia. One asks one’s self with terror what monster might be born from the coupling of Manfred and Lélia!

The loss of the moral sense is a true insanity; the man who does not, first of all, obey justice no longer belongs to himself; he walks without a light in the night of his existence; {260} he shakes like one in a dream, a prey to the nightmare of his passions.

The impetuous currents of instinctive life and the feeble resistances of the will form an antagonism so distinct that the qabalists hypothesized the super-foetation of souls; that is to say, they believed in the presence in one body of several souls who dispute it with each other and often seek to destroy it. Very much as the shipwrecked sailors of the Medusa, when they were disputing the possession of the too small raft, sought to sink it.

It is certain that, in making one’s self the servant of any current whatever, of instincts or even of ideas, one gives up one’s personality, and becomes the slave of that multitudinous spirit whom the Gospel calls legion. Artists know this well enough. Their frequent evocations of the universal light enervate them. They become mediums, that is to say, sick men. The more success magnifies them in public opinion, the more their personality diminishes. They become crotchety, envious, wrathful. They do not admit that any merit, even in a different sphere, can be placed besides theirs; and, having become unjust, they dispense even with politeness. To escape this fatality, really great men isolate themselves from all comradeship, knowing it to be death to liberty. They save themselves by a proud unpopularity from the contamination of the vile multitude. If Balzac had been during his life a man of a clique or of a party, he would not have remained after his death the great and universal genius of our epoch.

The light illuminates neither things insensible nor closed eyes, or at least it only illuminates them for the profit of those who see. The word of Genesis, “Let there be light!” {261} is the cry of victory with which intelligence triumphs over darkness. This word is sublime in effect because it expresses simply the greatest and most marvellous thing in the world: the creation of intelligence by itself, when, calling its powers together, balancing its faculties, it says: I wish to immortalize myself with the sight of the eternal truth. Let there be light! and there is light. Light, eternal as God, begins every day for all eyes that are open to see it. Truth will be eternally the invention and the creation of genius; it cries: Let there be light! and genius itself is, because light is. Genius is immortal because it understands that light is eternal. Genius contemplates truth as its work because it is the victor of light, and immortality is the triumph of light because it will be the recompense and crown of genius.

But all spirits do not see with justness, because all hearts do not will with justice. There are souls for whom the true light seems to have no right to be. They content themselves with phosphorescent visions, abortions of light, hallucinations of thought; and, loving these phantoms, fear the day which will put them to flight, because they feel that, the day not being made for their eyes, they would fall back into a deeper darkness. It is thus that fools first fear, then calumniate, insult, pursue and condemn the sages. One must pity them, and pardon them, for they know not what they do.

True light rests and satisfies the soul; hallucination, on the contrary, tires it and worries it. The satisfactions of madness are like those gastronomic dreams of hungry men which sharpen their hunger without ever satisfying it. Thence are born irritations and troubles, discouragements and despairs.—Life is always a lie to us, say the disciples of {262} Werther, and therefore we wish to die! Poor children, it is not death that you need, it is life. Since you have been in the world you have died every day; is it from the cruel pleasure of annihilation that you would demand a remedy for the annihilation of your pleasure? No, life has never deceived you, you have not yet lived. What you have been taking for life is but the hallucinations and the dreams of the first slumber of death!

All great criminals have hallucinated themselves on purpose; and those who hallucinate themselves on purpose may be fatally led to become great criminals. Our personal light specialized, brought forth, determined by our own overmastering affection, is the germ of our paradise or of our Hell. Each one of us (in a sense) conceives, bears, and nourishes his good or evil angel. The conception of truth gives birth in us to the good genius; intentional untruth hatches and brings up nightmares and phantoms. Everyone must nourish his children; and our life consumes itself for the sake of our thoughts. Happy are those who find again immortality in the creations of their soul! Woe unto them who wear themselves out to nourish falsehood and to fatten death! for every one will reap the harvest of his own sowing.

There are some unquiet and tormented creature whose influence is disturbing and whose conversation is fatal. In their presence one feels one’s self irritated, and one leaves their presence angry; yet, by a secret perversity, one looks for them, in order to experience the disturbance and enjoy the malevolent emotions which they give us. Such persons suffer from the contagious maladies of the spirit of perversity.

The spirit of perversity has always for its secret motive {263} the thirst of destruction, and its final aim is suicide. The murderer of Éliçabide, on his own confession, not only felt the savage need of killing his relations and friends, but he even wished, had it been possible — he said it in so many words at his trial—to burst the globe like a cooked chestnut. Lacenaire, who spent his days in plotting murders, in order to have the means of passing his nights in ignoble orgies or in the excitement of gambling, boasted aloud that he had lived. He called that living, and he sang a hymn to the guillotine, which he called his beautiful betrothed, and the world was full of imbeciles who admired the wretch! Alfred de Musset, before extinguishing himself in drunkenness, wasted one of the finest talents of his century in songs of cold irony and of universal disgust. The unhappy man had been bewitched by the breath of a profoundly perverse woman, who, after having killed him, crouched like a ghoul upon his body and tore his winding sheet. We asked one day, of a young writer of this school, what his literature proved. It proves, he replied frankly and simply, that one must despair and die. What apostleship, and what a doctrine! But these are the necessary and regular conclusions of the spirit of perversity; to aspire ceaselessly to suicide, to calumniate life and nature, to invoke death every day without being able to die. This is eternal Hell, it is the punishment of Satan, that mythological incarnation of the spirit of perversity; the true translation into French of the Greek word Diabolos, or devil, is le perversthe perverse.

Here is a mystery which debauchees do not suspect. It is this: one cannot enjoy even the material pleasures of life but by virtue of the moral sense. Pleasure is the music of the {264} interior harmonies; the senses are only its instruments, instruments which sound false in contact with a degraded soul. The wicked can feel nothing, because they can love nothing: in order to love one must be good. Consequently for them everything is empty, and it seems to them that Nature is impotent, because they are so themselves; they doubt everything because they know nothing; they blaspheme everything because they taste nothing; they caress in order to degrade; they drink in order to get drunk; they sleep in order to forget; they wake in order to endure mortal boredom: thus will live, or rather thus will die, every day he who frees himself from every law and every duty in order to make himself the slave of his passions. The world, and eternity itself, become useless to him who makes himself useless to the world and to eternity.

Our will, by acting directly upon our plastic medium, that is to say, upon the portion of astral life which is specialized in us, and which serves us for the assimilation and configuration of the elements necessary to our existence; our will, just or unjust, harmonious or perverse, shapes the medium in its own image and gives it beauty in conformity with what attracts us. Thus moral monstrosity produces physical ugliness; for the astral medium, that interior architect of our bodily edifice, modifies it ceaselessly according to our real or factitious needs. It enlarges the belly and the jaws of the greedy, thins the lips of the miser, makes the glances of impure women shameless, and those of the envious and malicious venomous. When selfishness has prevailed in the soul, the look becomes cold, the features hard: the harmony of form disappears, and according to the absorption or radiant speciality of this {265} selfishness, the limbs dry up or become encumbered with fat. Nature, in making of our body the portrait of our soul, guarantees its resemblance for ever, and tirelessly retouches it. You pretty women who are not good, be sure that you will not long remain beautiful. Beauty is the loan which Nature makes to virtue. If virtue is not ready when it falls due, the lender will pitilessly take back Her capital.

Perversity, by modifying the organism whose equilibrium it destroys, creates at the same time a fatality of needs which urges it to its own destruction, to its death. The less the perverse man enjoys, the more thirsty of enjoyment he is. Wine is like water for the drunkard, gold melts in the hands of the gambler; Messalina tires herself out without being satiated. The pleasure which escapes them changes itself for them into a long irritation and desire. The more murderous are their excesses, the more it seems to them that supreme happiness is at hand. ... One more bumper of strong drink, one more spasm, one more violence done to Nature... Ah! at last, here is pleasure; here is life ... and their desire, in the paroxysm of its insatiable hunger, extinguishes itself for ever in death.

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