ELIPHAS LEVI ZAHED - Dogme et Rituel de la Haute

POSTED BY: 5T1V FEB 22, 2016



ELIPHAS LEVI ZAHED is a pseudonym which was adopted in
his occult writings by Alphonse Louis Constant, and it is
said to be the Hebrew equivalent of that name. The
author of the Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie was
born in humble circumstances about the year 1810, being
the son of a shoemaker. Giving evidence of unusual
intelligence at an early age, the priest of his parish con-
ceived a kindly interest for the obscure boy, and got him
on the foundation of Saint Sulpice, where he was educated
without charge, and with a view to the priesthood. He
seems to have passed through the course of study at that
seminary in a way which did not disappoint the expecta-
tions raised concerning him. In addition to Greek and
Latin, he is believed to have acquired considerable knowledge
of Hebrew, though it would be an error to suppose that any
of his published works exhibit special linguistic attainments.
He entered on his clerical novitiate, took minor orders, and
in due course became a deacon, being thus bound by a vow
of perpetual celibacy. Shortly after this step, he was
suddenly expelled from Saint Sulpice for holding opinions
contrary to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
The existing accounts of this expulsion are hazy, and in-
corporate unlikely elements, as, for example, that he was
sent by his ecclesiastical superiors to take duty in country
places, where he preached with great eloquence what, how-
ever, was doctrinally unsound ; but I believe that there is
n<r precedent for the preaching of deacons in the Latin
Church. Pending the appearance of the biography which
has been for some years promised in France, we have few
available materials for a life of the "Abbe"" Constant.
In any case, he was cast back upon the world, with the
limitations of priestly engagements, while the priestly career

was closed to him and what he did, or how he contrived
to support himself, is unknown. By the year 1839 he had
made some literary friendships, including that of Alphonse
Esquiros, the forgotten author of a fantastic romance, entitled
" The Magician";* and Esquiros introduced him to Ganneau,
a distracted prophet of the period, who had adopted the
dress of a woman, abode in a garret, and there preached a
species of political illuminism, which was apparently con-
cerned with the restoration of la vraie UgitimiU. He was,
in fact, a second incarnation of Louis XVII. " come back
to earth for the fulfilment of a work of regeneration." t
Constant and Esquiros, who had visited him for the pur-
pose of scoffing, were carried away by his eloquence, and
became his disciples. Some element of socialism must have
combined with the illuminism of the visionary, and this ap-
pears to have borne fruit in the brain of Constant, taking
shape ultimately in a book or pamphlet, entitled " The Gospel
of Liberty," to which a transient importance was attached,
foolishly enough, by the imprisonment of the author for a
term of six months. There is some reason to suppose that
Esquiros had a hand in the production, and also in the
penalty. His incarceration over, Constant came forth un-
daunted, still cleaving to his prophet, and undertook a kind
of apostolic mission into the provinces, addressing the
country people, and suffering, as he himself tells us,
persecution from the ill-disposed. I But the prophet ceased

to prophesy, presumably for want of an audience, and la
vraie Ugitimitd was not restored, so the disciple returned to
Paris, where, in spite of the pledge of his diaconate, he
effected a runaway match with Mdlle. Noe'iny, a beautiful
girl of sixteen. This lady bore him two children, who died
in tender years, and subsequently she deserted him. Her
husband is said to have tried all expedients to procure her
return,* but in vain, and she even further asserted her
position by obtaining a legal annulment of her marriage, on
the ground that the contracting parties were a minor and a
person bound to celibacy by an irrevocable vow. The lady,
it may be added, had other domestic adventures, ending in
a second marriage about the year 1872. Madame Constant
was not only very beautiful, but exceedingly talented, and
after her separation she became famous as a sculptor, ex-
hibiting at the Salon and elsewhere under the name of
Claude Vingmy. It is not impossible that she may be
still alive ; in the sense of her artistic genius, at least, she
is something more than a memory.

At what date Alphonse Louis Constant applied himself
to the study of the occult sciences is uncertain, like most
other epochs of his life. The statement on page 142 of
this translation, that in the year 1825 he entered on a
fateful path, which led him through suffering to knowledge,
must not be understood in the sense that his initiation took
place at that period, which was indeed early in boyhood.
It obviously refers to his enrolment among the scholars of
Saint Sulpice, which, in a sense, led to suffering, and per-
haps ultimately to science, as it certainly obtained him
education. The episode of the New Alliance so Gannean
termed his system connects with transcendentalism, at least

and obtaining a licence to preach and administer the sacraments in that
diocese, though he was not a priest. He is represented as drawing large
congregations to the cathedral by his preaching, but at length the judge
who had sentenced him unmasked the impostor, and the sacrilegious farce
thus terminated dramatically. on the side of hallucination, and may have furnished the
required impulse to the mind of the disciple ; but in 1846
and 1847, certain pamphlets issued by Constant under the
auspices of the Libraire Societaire and the Libraire Phal-
anste'rienne shew that his inclinations were still towards
Socialism, tinctured by religious aspirations. The period
which intervened between his wife's desertion* and the
publication of the Dogme de la Haute Magie, in 1855, was
that, probably, which he devoted less or more to occult
study. In the interim he issued a large " Dictionary of
Christian Literature," which is still extant in the encyclo-
paedic series of the Abbe* Migne ; this work betrays no
leaning towards occult science, and, indeed, no acquaintance
therewith. What it does exhibit unmistakably is the in-
tellectual insincerity of the author, for he assumes therein
the mask of perfect orthodoxy, and that accent in matters of
religion which is characteristic of the voice of Rome. The
Dogme de la Haute Magie was succeeded in 1856 by its com-
panion volume the Hituel, both of which are here translated
for the first time into English. It was followed in rapid
succession by the Histoire de la Magie, 1860; La Clef des
Grands Mysteres, 1861 ; a second edition of the Dogme et
Rituel, to which a long and irrelevant introduction was
unfortunately prefixed, 1862; Fables ct Symloles, 1864;
Le Sorcier de Meudon, a beautiful pastoral idyll, impressed
with the cachet cabalistique ; and La Science des Esprits, 1865.
The two last works incorporate the substance of the
amphlets published in 1846 and 1847.

The precarious existence of Constant's younger days was
in one sense but faintly improved in his age. His books
did not command a large circulation, but they secured him
admirers and pupils, from whom he received remuneration

in return for personal or written courses of instruction. He
was commonly to be found chez lui in a species of magical
vestment, which may be pardoned in a French magus, and
his only available portrait prefixed to this volume
represents him in that guise. He outlived the Franco-
German war, and as he had exchanged Socialism for a sort
of transcendentalised Imperialism, his political faith must
have been as much tried by the events which followed the
siege of Paris as was his patriotic enthusiasm by the reverses
which culminated at Se"dan. His contradictory life closed in
1875 amidst the last offices of the church which had almost
expelled him from her bosom. He left many manuscripts
behind him, which are still in course of publication, and
innumerable letters to his pupils Baron Spedalieri alone
possesses nine volumes have been happily preserved in
most cases, and are in some respects more valuable than
the formal treatises.

No modern expositor of occult science can bear any
comparison with Sliphas Levi, and among ancient exposi-
tors, though many stand higher in authority, all yield to
him in living interest, for he is actually the spirit of modern
thought forcing an answer for the times from the old
oracles. Hence there are greater names, but there is no
influence so great no fascination in occult literature ex-
ceeds that of the French magus. The others are surrendered
to specialists and the typical serious students to whom all
dull and unreadable masterpieces are dedicated, directly or
not ; but he is read and appreciated, much as we read and
appreciate new and delightful verse which, through some
conceit of the poet, is put into the vesture of Chaucer.
Indeed, the writings of filiphas Levi stand, as regards the
grand old line of initiation, in relatively the same position as
the " Earthly Paradise " of Mr William Morris stands to
the " Canterbury Tales." There is the recurrence to the
old conceptions, and there is the assumption of the old
drapery, but there is in each case the new spirit. The
" incommunicable axiom " and the " great arcanum," Azoth,

Inri, and Tetragrammaton, which are the vestures of the
occult philosopher, are like the " cloth of Bruges and hogs-
heads of Guienne, Florence gold cloth, and Ypres napery "
of the poet. In both cases it is the year 1850 ct seq., in a
mask of high fantasy. Moreover, " the idle singer of an
empty day " is paralleled fairly enough by " the poor and
obscure scholar who has recovered the lever of Archimedes."
The comparison is intentionally grotesque, but it obtains
notwithstanding, and even admits of development, for as
Mr Morris in a sense voided the raison d'etre of his poetry,
and, in express contradiction to his own mournful question,
has endeavoured to " set the crooked straight " by betaking
himself to Socialism, so filiphas LeVi surrendered the rod
of miracles and voided his Doctrine of Magic by devising
a one-sided and insincere concordat with orthodox religion,
and expiring in the arms of " my venerable masters in
theology," the descendants, and decadent at that, of the
" imbecile theologians of the middle ages." But the one is,
as the other was, a man of sufficient ability to make a
paradoxical defence of a position which remains untenable.
Students of ICliphas LeVi will be acquainted with the
qualifications and stealthy retractations by which the some-
what uncompromising position of initiated superiority in
the " Doctrine and Eitual," had its real significance read
out of it by the later works of the magus. I have dealt
with this point exhaustively in another place,* and there is
no call to pass over the same ground a second time. I
propose rather to indicate as briefly as possible some new
considerations which will help us to understand why there
were grave discrepancies between the " Doctrine and Ritual
of Transcendent Magic" and the volumes which followed
these. In the first place, the earlier books were written
more expressly from the standpoint of initiation, and in the
language thereof ; they obviously contain much which it
would be mere folly to construe after a literal fashion, and

what filiphas LeVi wrote at a later period is not so much
discrepant with his earlier instruction though it is this
also as the qualifications placed by a modern transcen-
dentalist on the technical exaggerations of the secret sciences.
For the proof we need travel no further than the introduc-
tion to " The Doctrine of Magic," and to the Hebrew manu-
script cited therein, as to the powers and privileges of the
magus. Here the literal interpretation would be insanity ;
these claims conceal a secret meaning, and are trickery in
their verbal sense. They are what filiphas LeVi himself
terms "hyperbolic," adding: "If the sage do not materially and
actually perform these things, he accomplishes others which
are much greater and more admirable" (p. 223). But this
consideration is not in itself sufficient to take account of the
issues that are involved ; it will not explain, for example,
why filiphas Levi, who consistently teaches in the " Doctrine
and Ritual " that the dogmas of so-called revealed religion
are nurse-tales for children, should subsequently have insisted
on their acceptation in the sense of the orthodox Church by
the grown men of science, and it becomes necessary here to
touch upon a matter which, by its nature, and obviously,
does not admit of complete elucidation.

The precise period of study which produced the " Doctrine
and Eitual of Transcendent Magic" as its first literary
result is not indicated with any certainty, as we have seen,
in the life of the author, nor do I regard filiphas LeVi as
constitutionally capable of profound or extensive book study.
Intensely suggestive, he is at the same time without much
evidence of depth ; splendid in generalisation, he is without
accuracy in detail, and it would be difficult to cite a worse
guide over mere matters of fact. His "History of Magic" is a
case in point ; as a philosophical survey it is admirable, and
there is nothing in occult literature to approach it for
literary excellence, but it swarms with historical inac-
curacies ; it is in all respects an accomplished and in no
way an erudite performance, nor do I think that the writer
much concerned himself with any real reading of the

authorities whom he cites. The French verb parcourir
represents his method of study, and not the verb appro-
fondir. Let us take one typical case. There is no occult
writer whom he cites with more satisfaction, and towards
whom he exhibits more reverence, than William Postel, and
of all Postel's books there is none which he mentions so
often as the Clavis Absconditorum a Constitutione Mundi ;
yet he had read this minute treatise so carelessly that he
missed a vital point concerning it, and apparently died
unaware that the symbolic key prefixed to it was the work
of the editor and not the work of Postel. It does not
therefore seem unreasonable to affirm that had LeVi been
left to himself, he would not have got far in occult science,
because his Gallic vivacity would have been blunted too
quickly by the horrors of mere research ; but he did some-
how fall within a circle of initiation which curtailed the
necessity for such research, and put him in the right path,
making visits to the Bibliotheque Rationale and the Arsenal
of only subsidiary importance. This, therefore, constitutes
the importance of the " Doctrine and Eitual " ; disguised
indubitably, it is still the voice of initiation ; of what school
does not matter, for in this connection nothing can be
spoken plainly, and I can ask only the lenience of deferred
judgment from my readers for my honourable assurance
that I am not speaking idly. The grades of that initiation
had been only partly ascended by filiphas Levi when he
published the " Doctrine and Ritual," and its publication
closed the path of his progress : as he was expelled by Saint
Sulpice for the exercise of private judgment in matters of
doctrinal belief, so he was expelled by his occult chiefs for
the undue exercise of personal discretion in the matter
of the revelation of the mysteries. Now, these facts explain
in the first place the importance, as I have said, of the
" Doctrine and Eitual," because it represents a knowledge
which cannot be derived from books ; they explain, secondly,
the shortcomings of that work, because it is not the result
of a full knowledge ; why, thirdly, the later writings contain

no evidences of further knowledge ; and, lastly, I think that
they materially assist us to understand why there are retracta-
tions, qualifications, and subterfuges in the said later works.
Having gone too far, he naturally attempted to go back, and
just as he strove to patch up a species of modus vivendi with
the church of his childhood, so he endeavoured, by throw-
ing dust in the eyes of his readers, to make his peace with
that initiation, the first law of which he had indubitably
violated. In both cases, and quite naturally, he failed.

It remains for me to state what I feel personally to be
the chief limitation of LeVi, namely, that he was a tran-
scendentalist but not a mystic, and, indeed, he was scarcely
a transcendentalist in the accepted sense, for he was
fundamentally a materialist a materialist, moreover, who
at times approached perilously towards atheism, as when he
states that God is a hypothesis which is "very probably
necessary " ; he was, moreover, a disbeliever in any real
communication with the world of spirits. He defines
mysticism as the shadow and the buffer of intellectual
light, and loses no opportunity to enlarge upon its false
illuminism, its excesses, and fatuities. There is, therefore,
no way from man to God in his system, while the sole
avenues of influx from God to man are sacramentally, and
in virtue merely of a tolerable hypothesis. Thus man must
remain in simple intellectualism if he would rest in reason ;
the sphere of material experience is that of his knowledge ;
and as to all beyond it, there are only the presumptions of
analogy. I submit that this is not the doctrine of occult
science, nor the summum "bonum of the greater initiation ;
that transcendental pneumatology is more by its own;
hypothesis than an alphabetical system argued kabbalis-
tically ; and that more than mere memories can on the same
assumption be evoked in the astral light. The hierarchic
order of the visible world has its complement in the invisible
hierarchy, which analogy leads us to discern, being at the
same time a process of our perception rather than a rigid
law governing the modes of manifestation in all things seen

and unseen ; initiation takes us to the bottom step of the
ladder of the invisible hierarchy and instructs us in the
principles of ascent, but the ascent rests personally with
ourselves; the voices of some who have preceded can be
heard above us, but they are of those who are still upon the
way, and they die as they rise into the silence, towards which
we also must ascend alone, where initiation can no longer
help us, unto that bourne from whence no traveller returns,
and the influxes are sacramental only to those who are below.
An annotated translation exceeded the scope of the present
undertaking, but there is much in the text which follows
that offers scope for detailed criticism, and there are points
also where further elucidation would be useful. One of the
most obvious defects, the result of mere carelessness or undue
haste in writing, is the promise to explain or to prove given
points later on, which are forgotten subsequently by the
author. Instances will be found on p. 65, concerning the
method of determining the appearance of unborn children by
means of the pentagram ; on p. 83, concerning the rules
for the recognition of sex in the astral body; on p. 9*7,
concerning the notary art ; on p. 100, concerning the magical
side of the Exercises of St Ignatius; on p. 123, concerning
the alleged sorcery of Grandier and Girard ; on p. 125, con-
cerning Schroepffer's secrets and formulas for evocation ; on
p. 134, concerning the occult iconography of Gaffarel. In
some cases the promised elucidations appear in other places
than those indicated, but they are mostly wanting altogether.
There are other perplexities with which the reader must deal
according to his judgment. The explanation of the quad-
rature of the circle on p. 37 is a childish folly ; the illus-
tration of perpetual motion on p. 55 involves a mechanical
absurdity ; the doctrine of the perpetuation of the same
physiognomies from generation to generation is not less
absurd in heredity ; the cause assigned to cholera and other
ravaging epidemics, more especially the reference to bacteria,
seems equally outrageous in physics. There is one other
matter to which attention should be directed ; the Hebrew

quotations in the original and the observation applies
generally to all the works of Le'vi swarm with typo-
graphical and other errors, some of which it is impossible to
correct, as, for example, the passage cited from Eabbi
Abraham on p. 266. So also the Greek conjuration, pp. 277
and 278, is simply untranslatable as it stands, and the
version given is not only highly conjectural, but omits an
entire passage owing to insuperable difficulties. Lastly, after
careful consideration, I have judged it the wiser course to
leave out the preliminary essay which was prefixed to the
second edition of the " Doctrine and Ritual " ; its prophetic
utterances upon the mission of Napoleon III. have been
stultified by subsequent events ; it is devoid of any con-
nection with the work which it precedes, and, representing
as it does the later views of Levi, it would be a source of
confusion to the reader. The present translation represents,
therefore, the first edition of the Dogme et Rituel de la Haute
Magie, omitting nothing but a few unimportant citations
from old French grimoires in an unnecessary appendix at
the end. The portrait of Le'vi is from a carte-de-visite in
the possession of Mr Edward Maitland, and was issued
with his " Life of Anna Kingsford," a few months ago.

LONDON, September 1896.


full translation here