Eliphas Levi - The History of Magic (40.7 MB)

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First published in French, this work by Eliphas Levi (1810-75) was translated into English by occult historian Arthur Waite in 1913. In this book, Levi traces Western magic from its origins in the ancient world to the nineteenth-century occult revival. Levi's French edition is also reissued in this series.Eliphas Levi's "History of Magic" is probably the most singularly beautiful, profoundly romantic and Personal rendering of the history of Magic ever penned. It is as much a sourcebook for the Symbolist/Decadent fin-de-siecl... More >>>
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Author:      Eliphas Levi
Format:      eBook
First published in French, this work by Eliphas Levi (1810-75) was translated into English by occult historian Arthur Waite in 1913. In this book, Levi traces Western magic from its origins in the ancient world to the nineteenth-century occult revival. Levi's French edition is also reissued in this series.

Eliphas Levi's "History of Magic" is probably the most singularly beautiful, profoundly romantic and Personal rendering of the history of Magic ever penned. It is as much a sourcebook for the Symbolist/Decadent fin-de-siecle generation as is Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil & Paris Spleen, and ironically, Levi collaborated with Baudelaire on the work entitled:"Les Mysteres Galants".(webb. Occult Underground,266) It is essential to grasp when involved in such a historical treatise as this, that in Occultism, as in religious thought: EXPERIENCE TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER DOCTRINE. If one is seeking verifiable facts given in chronological order that is simple to digest and retain, look elsewhere.

For Levi is speaking of history in relation to his own private researches, to which he had dedicated his life since entering the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church at the age of twelve. His is also a history of magic with literary antecedents to the likes of Aurthur Rimbaud for instance, this work of Levi/Constant's was a veritable bible, whose symbolism permeates works such as "A Season In Hell" to a deliriant degree.

There is perhaps not one writer or Artist regardless of medium between the years 1860-1930 who was not at least familiar with Levi/Constant this fact extends from his own friends, such as Balzac, de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Dumas- to Breton, Crowley, Bataille, Meyrink, Henry Miller and innumerable others! The names cover from Western to Eastern Europe, as well as North America and it is Levi who established what we define, in its cultural sense, as "Occultism" today. It is also largely because of his pioneering Occult works that the "19th century Occult Revival" merged with the Arts of the day, giving birth to the idea of "Art as Religion, & the Artist as Priest/magician". It was in the Occult that the Artist(spelled for the 1st time with a capital)found a definition of his own position, and most granted the highest respect and admiration to the Rabelaisian personage of Alphonse Louis Constant, which is Levi's real name.

Aleister Crowley's lifework was centered around Eliphas's dream of a reconciliation between the arts of science & religion, for which he laboured and set down all that was required in his Occult as well as religious and revolutionary tomes, comprising together at least 20 works. The essential question in Levi's History Of Magic is NOT the accuracy of his scholarly objectivity, but his system's origins, structure, goals, and the benefits it bestows and light shined upon the Occultist's understanding of Magic in relation to the history of magic that Levi's historical system differs from other interpretations is due to the fact that he was not so much interested in the historical facts as much as how the history and the knowledge it produced could benefit the modern-day Occultist operating in the world today. In this respect the text is given over to interpretation of all variety of magical personages, events, accomplishments, inventions, and works.

Also essential to know is that it is thanks to the genius of the Philosopher/mathmetician Hoene Wronski and his CaBalistic insights that Levi gleaned much in his Philosophical approach. One may benefit also by disregarding any facts pseudo-scholar Waite provides on Constant's background as he had at the time of writing his prefaces' not one single work in regards to the life of Levi his critical insights however are as valid as any, and for all his seeming hostility he in reality is truly, next to Crowley, perhaps Levi's biggest fan!

waite is also to be commended for providing the bibliographical sources for those seeking "established facts"( which merely means some few people agree upon what they themselves only know from yet another source of questionable reliability) It is quite evident from a philosophical standpoint that the Occultist's rewards reaped from their experience outweighs in practical value what is the scholar's bane regardless of any amount of scholarly exactitude. In this sense, as much as in the exquisitely-toned bardic prose of Levi, he has created a historical work that will outlast innumerable others, standing as it does on the merits of great literature as well as being universally regarded as a pioneering classic of Occultism.

About Author:

Eliphas Levi (the pen name of Abbe Louis Constant, 1810-1875), was a French occultist who is credited for reviving interest in magic in the 19th century. Levi's writings have been appraised as being highly imaginative but not very accurate. His first and probably most important work was The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic. It was followed by A History of Magic, Transcendental Magic, The Key of Great Mysteries, and other occult books. Levi "believed in the existence of a universal 'secret doctrine' of magic throughout history, everywhere in the world."

In The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, Levi devoted 22 chapters to the 22 trump cards, or Major Arcana, of the tarot. He linked each to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and to aspects of God.

Levi also proclaimed a theory of astral light based on his belief in animal magnetism. In his theory, astral light was similar to either, a fluidic life force that fills all space and living beings. This concept was not original but held by others in the 19th century. Levi stated, "To control the astral light was to control all things; a skilled magician's will was limitless in power."

Levi stated he was influenced by an earlier writer and occultist Francis Barrett. In turn he influenced another writer and occultist Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, with whom he visited in London in 1861. Bulwer-Lytton wrote The Last Days of Pompeii and other occult books helping to make magic fashionable to the last of the 19th century. They both became members of an occult group, which perhaps Bulwer-Lytton may have organized, that studied scrying, magic, astrology, and mesmerism. In his popularity he drew a cult following, influencing others to write their own books.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in London in 1888, adopted much of Levi's magic. Aleister Crowley, a former member, was born the year that Levi died and claimed to be the reincarnation of Levi.

Levi is well know for four main books, The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, A History of Magic, Transcendental Magic and the The Key of Great Mysteries, and other occult books. Levi "believed in the existence of a universal 'secret doctrine' of magic throughout history, everywhere in the world."
In The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, Levi devoted 22 chapters to the 22 trump cards, or Major Arcana, of the tarot. He linked each to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and to aspects of God.
Levi's most well known work covers Transcendental magic which is a far more practical from text an occult perspective than Levi's other works. The work is split into two parts. Part 1 covers theory, and examines traditional interpretations of magic and religion. Part II covers the practical aspects of ritual magic.

His other works are:

- Clefs Majeures et Clavicules de Salomon
- Dogma et Rituel de la Haute Magie Part I
- Dogma et Rituel de la Haute Magie Part II
- Elements of the Qabalah
- The Conjuration of the Four Elements
- The Key of the Mysteries
- The Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum.