Eliphas Levi (1810-1875).
and compiled by George Knowles.
Eliphas Levi is the pseudonym of Alphonse Louis Constant, a French
occultist and author whose works greatly influenced the growing numbers of esoteric and
of the 19th century, most particularly groups such as the S.R.I.A.
(Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia), the Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn and Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical
Society. Interestingly the
infamous Aleister Crowley was born the same year Levi died and later claimed to be his
Constant was born in Paris on the 08th February 1810 and was
the only son of a shoemaker. He was an intelligent young man and quick to
learn but his father did not have the funds to privately educate him.
Determined his son should have a decent education, he sent Constant to the seminary
of Saint Nichols du Chardonnet and later to Saint Sulpice
to be educated and trained as a priest. While he was there he became
intrigued by a lesson received from his headmaster, who during the course of the
lesson explained his belief that animal magnetism was a vital energy of the
human body controlled by the “Devil”. This sparked his curiosity and
surreptitiously he began to study all that he could find out about magic and the
Early in the 1830’s Constant became acquainted with an old couple
called 'Ganneau' who practiced witchcraft.
Ganneau believed himself a prophet and a reincarnation of Louis XVII,
while he also believed his wife was the reincarnation of Marie Antoinette.
Constant joined Ganneau and became one of his followers delving deeper
into the mysteries of magic and the occult.
Continuing to pursue his career in the church, he was ordained a deacon
in December 1835, but did not become a priest.
Constant wrote a number of minor religious works: Des
Moeurs et des Doctrines du Rationalisme en France (Of the Moral Customs and
Doctrines of Rationalism in France, in 1839), L'Evangile du Peuple (The
Gospel of the People in 1840), La Mère de Dieu (The Mother of God in
1844) and Le Testament de la Liberté (The Testament of Liberty published
in 1848), the same year Napoleon III in a revolutionary coup
overthrew King Louis Philippe and became president of the Second Republic.
Thrown out of the church and excommunicated due to his left-wing
political views, Constant’s writings led on to him serving three short jail
In 1846 when he was 36 years old, Constant met and married Noemie Cadiot
who was 18 years his junior. Together they had one child but sadly it died
in early childhood. After the loss of the child the marriage deteriorated,
they separated in 1853 and their marriage was annulled in 1865. In the
meantime, Constant was earning a meagre living writing as a journalist and by
giving lessons in occult studies. He took on the pen name 'Magus Eliphas
Levi', which he arrived at by translating his given names ‘Alphonse Louis’ into Hebrew.
After his wife had left him, Levi made his first trip to England in May
1854, hoping to increase his fortunes by giving private lessons on occult
subjects. So far Levi had not
written anything on the subject, but his reputation as a leading French Magus
had preceded him, he also came furnished with letters of introduction to some of
London’s high society and England’s more prominent personages.
One such was the
novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton 1803-1873
- the 1st Baron Lytton of
Knebworth) and they formed a firm and lasting friendship.
Bulwer-Lytton was regarded as a leading authority on magic and occultism in England, his interests extended to the study of clairvoyance, magic, astrology and mesmerism, he was also the president of a local Rosicrucian group seeking esoteric wisdom from psychic and spiritual enlightenment. It was Bulwer-Lytton who encouraged Levi to write a treatise on magic. As a result he later wrote: Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1855. This was later translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite of the Golden Dawn as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual. The opening lines of the introduction to the book leaves the reader with little doubt as to its theme of Occult Mysticism:
Frontispiece to Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie
Behind the veil of all the hieratic 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 Nineveh or
Thebes, on the crumbling stones of old temples and on the blackened visage of
the Assyrian or Egyptian sphinx, 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”.
It was during this trip to London in 1854 that Levi first tried
necromancy. Unable to speak but a smattering of English, his ability to
give lessons proved to be disappointing and he failed to make any money
teaching. Instead and much to his
dismay, he was expected to perform ‘miracles’ and give practical
demonstrations of ceremonial magic. One
titled lady, a friend of Bulwer-Lytton who claimed
to be an adept, asked him to conjure the spirit of ‘Apollonius of Tyana’ a
famous magician of ancient times. Levi confessed that he had never before
attempted such a conjuration and until then had purposely avoided any such
activity. However after much
persuasion and due preparation he consented to make the attempt.
During three week of preparation including dieting and fasting, Levi
meditated on Apollonius and imagined conversations with him.
The Ritual of Conjuration was performed in a specially prepared
‘Temple’ in which only he took part and consisted of 12 hours of
incantations, after which the floor began to shake and a ghostly apparition
appeared. Levi admitted to feeling extremely cold and frightened and when
the apparition touched his ritual sword, his arm went suddenly numb. He
dropped the sword and fainted. He claimed later that his sword arm was
sore and numb for days after the incident.
Levi was inclined to treat his experience as a subjective experiment, but
observed that it had been sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of magical
ceremonies. He also condemned their use as dangerous on moral and health
grounds outside the hands of an experienced adept. An account of the ceremony he performed can be found in Arthur Edward Waite’s translation of his work: Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual.
Levi returned to Paris in August 1854, penniless and
without a home. He was help and
provided room and board by an old friend Adolphe Desbarolles.
Desbarolles later achieved some prominence as the author of Les
Mysteres de la Main, an important 19th century work on palmistry.
While Levi’s trip to England had been less than financially rewarding,
it did much to enhance his reputation. Back
in France his exploits again preceded
him, and soon he was attracting students to study the Cabala under his private
In May 1861, Levi made another trip to England and so as
not to repeat the conditions of his last trip, he brought with him one of his
pupils Count Alexander Branicki with whom he was welcomed to stay with Baron
Bulwer-Lytton at his estate in Knebworth. During
this visit Levi met with Kenneth
Mackenzie, a leading member of the S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia)
and the author of the influential “Royal
Mackenzie had also been popularly theorized as the author and originator
of the controversial “Cipher Manuscripts” upon which the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was founded.
published an account of their meeting, in which Levi stated that he had studied
the symbolism of Tarot cards for over 26 years.
Levi never produced a complete treatise on Tarot cards,
but his references to the cards throughout his writings, continued to fascinate,
influence and inspire many generations of occultists after his death.
After his trip to England in 1861, Levi published: La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries), a sequel to his earlier work. Other magical works followed and include: Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images) in 1862 and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits) in 1865. He also wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l'Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled) in 1868, but published posthumously in 1898. Initially Levi’s writings and beliefs were thought to be highly imaginative for he believed in the existence of a universal “secret doctrine of magic” that had prevailed throughout history and was evident everywhere in the world. He also expanded on the theory of “Astral Light” based on his belief in animal magnetism.
Until his death on the 31st May 1875, Levi continued to earn
a comfortable living from his writings and giving occult lessons.
Through a growing interest
in Spiritualism and the popular rise of esoteric groups such as the S.R.I.A.
(Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia), the Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn and Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical
Society, Levi’s writings soon gained a respectable following.
Levi’s magic had a deep impact on the Hermetic Order of the
and greatly influenced such people as S.L. MacGregor Mathers who wrote most of
the orders rituals, Arthur Edward Waite who adopted the Baphomet sigil as the
death card in his Rider Waite Tarot Deck, and of course Aleister Crowley with his associations with ‘The Beast’.
Eliphas Levi today is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic and contemporary witchcraft.
The Encyclopedia of Witches &Witchcraft - by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
Man Myth & Magic - Edited by Richard Cavendish
Just a few website sources:
First published on the 26th May 2001, 02:08:48 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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