STRAY THOUGHTS ON DEATH AND SATAN
TO THE EDITOR OF THE THEOSOPHIST
Madam,--Since you have published a posthumous letter of my Master
and beloved friend, the late Éliphas Lévi, I think it would
be agreeable to you to publish, if judged suitable, a few extracts of the
many manuscripts in my possession, written expressly for, and given to,
me by my ever-regretted MASTER.
To begin, I send you--"Stray Thoughts on Death and Satan" from
I cannot close this letter without expressing the deep indignation aroused
in me by the base diatribes published in the London Spiritualist against
your Society and its members. Every honest heart is irritated at such unfair
treatment, especially when proceeding from a man of honour as Mr. Harrison
(Editor of the Spiritualist) who admits in his journal anonymous
contributions that are tantamount to libels.
With the utmost respect,
I remain, Madam,
BARON J. SPADALIERI
Marseilles, July 29, 1881
Editor's Note.--It is with feelings of sincere gratitude that
we thank Baron Spadalieri for his most valuable contribution. The late Éliphas
Lévi was the most learned Kabalist and Occultist of our age, in Europe,
and every thing from his pen is precious to us, in so far as it helps us
to compare notes with the Eastern Occult doctrines and, by the light thrown
upon both, to prove to the world of Spiritualists and Mystics, that the
two systems--the Eastern-Aryan, and the Western or the Chaldeo-Jewish Kabala--are
one in their principal metaphysical tenets. Only, while the Eastern Occultists
have never lost the key to their esotericism, and are daily verifying and
elaborating their doctrines by personal experiments, and by the additional
light of modern science, the Western or Jewish Kabalists, besides having
been misled for centuries by the introduction of foreign elements in it
such as Christian dogmas, dead-letter interpretations of the Bible &c.,
have most undeniably lost the true key to the esoteric meaning of Simeon
Ben Jochai's Kabala, and are trying to make up for the loss, by interpretations
emanating from the depths of their imagination and inner consciousness.
Such is evidently the case with J. K., the self-styled London "Adept,"
whose anonymous and powerless vilifications of the Theosophical Society
and its members are pertinently regarded by Baron Spadalieri as "tantamount
to libels." But we have to be charitable. That poor descendant of the
Biblical Levites--as we know him to be--in his pigmy efforts to upset
the Theosophists, has most evidently fractured his brain against one of
his own "occult" sentences. There is one especially in the
Spiritualist (July 22), to which the attention of the mystically inclined is drawn
further down as this paragraph is most probably the cause of the sad accident
which befell so handsome a head. Be it as it may, but
it now disables the illustrious J.K. from communicating "scientifically
his knowledge" and forces him at the same time to remain, as he expresses
it, "in an incommunicable ecstatic state." For it is in no other
"state" that our great modern adept, the literary man of such
a "calibre"* that to suspect him
of "ignorance" becomes equal, in audacity, to throwing suspicion
upon the virtue of Caesar's wife--could possibly have written the following
lines, intended by him, we believe, as a lucid and clear exposition
of his own psycho-Kabalistic lore as juxtaposed to the "hard words,"
"outlandish verbiage," "moral and philosophical platitudes,"
and "jaw-breakers" of "the learned Theosophists."
These are the "gems of occult wisdom" of the illustrious Jewish
Kabalist who, like a bashful violet, hides his occult learning under two
"In every human creature there lies latent in the involitional part
of the being a sufficient quantity of the omniscient, the absolute. To induce
the latent absolute, which is the involitional part of our volitional
conscious being, to become manifest, it is essential that the volitional
part of our being should become latent. After the preparatory purification
from acquired depravities, a kind of introversion has to take place; the
involitional has to become volitional, by the volitional becoming involitional.
When the conscious becomes semi-unconscious, the, to us, formerly unconscious
becomes fully conscious. The particle of the omniscient that is within us,
the vital and growing, sleepless, involitional, occult or female principle
being allowed to express itself in the volitional, mental, manifest, or
masculine part of the human being, while the latter remains in a state of
perfect passivity, the two formerly dissevered parts become re-united as
one holy (wholly) perfect being, and then the divine manifestation is inevitable."
Very luckily, J.K. gives us himself the key to this grandiloquent gush:
"necessarily" he adds, "this is only safely practicable while
living in uncompromisingly firm purity, for otherwise there is danger of
unbalancement--insanity,or a questionable form of mediumship."
The italics are ours. Evidently with our immaculate "adept"
the "involitional, occult or female principle" was
not allowed to express itself in the volitional mental, manifest, or masculine
part" of his being, and--behold the results!!
For the edification of our Hindu readers, who are unprogressive enough
to refuse reading the lucubrations of "J.K.," or follow the mental
"grand trapeze" performed by this remarkable Adept" on the
columns of the Spiritualist, we may add that in he same article
he informs his English readers that it is "Hindu mystification, acting
on Western credulity" which "brought out the Theosophical Society."
"Hindu philosophy" according to that great light of the nineteenth
century is no "philosophy" but rather mysticism." . . . "Following
the track of the mystifying and mystified Hindus they (the Theosophists)
consider the four above faculties (Sidhis of Krishna) Anima, Mahima, Laghima
and Garima to be the power they (we) have to strive for." "Indeed,
what a ludicrous confusion of effect with cause"!
The fracture of the brain must have been serious indeed. Let us hope
that timely and repeated lotions of "Witch-Hazel" or "the
Universal Magic Balm" will have its good effects. Meanwhile, we turn
the attention of our Hindu readers and students of Occultism to the identity
of the doctrines taught by Éliphas Lévi (who, too, is contemptuously
sneered at, and sent by the "Adept" to keep company with "Brothers,"
Yogis, and "Fakirs") in every essential and vital point with those
of our Eastern initiates.
BY (THE LATE) ÉLIPHAS LÉVI
Death is the necessary dissolution of imperfect
combinations. It is the re-absorption of the rough outline of individual
life into the great work of universal life; only the perfect is immortal.
It is a bath in oblivion. It is the fountain of youth where on one side
plunges old age, and whence on the other issues infancy.1
Death is the transfiguration of the living; corpses are but the dead
leaves of the Tree of Life which will still have all its leaves in the spring.
The resurrection of men resembles eternally these leaves.
Perishable forms are conditioned by immortal types.
All who have lived upon earth,
live there still in new exemplars of their types, but the souls which have
surpassed their type receive elsewhere a new form based upon a more perfect
type, as they mount ever on the ladder of worlds;2
the bad exemplars are broken, and their matter returned into the general
Our souls are as it were a music, of which our bodies are the instruments.
The music exists without the instruments, but it cannot make itself heard
without a material intermediary; the immaterial can neither be conceived
Man in his present existence only retains certain predispositions from
his past existences.
Evocations of the dead are but condensations of
memory, the imaginary coloration of the shades. To evoke those who are no
longer there, is but to cause their types to re-issue from the imagination
To be in direct communication with the imagination of nature, one must
be either asleep, intoxicated, in an ecstacy, cataleptic, or mad.
The eternal memory preserves only the imperishable; all that passes in
Time belongs of right to oblivion.
The preservation of corpses is a violation of the
laws of nature; it is an outrage on the modesty of death, which hides the
works of destruction, as we should hide those of reproduction. Preserving
corpses is to create phantoms in the imagination of the earth;5 the spectres of the night-mare,
of hallucination, and fear, are but the wandering photographs of preserved
corpses. It is these preserved or imperfectly destroyed corpses, which spread,
amid the living, plague, cholera, contagious diseases, sadness, scepticism
and disgust of life.6 Death is exhaled by
death. The cemeteries poison the atmosphere of towns, and the miasma of
corpses blight the children even in the bosoms of their mothers.
Near Jerusalem in the Valley of Gehenna a perpetual fire was maintained
for the combustion of filth and the carcasses of animals, and it is to this
eternal fire that Jesus alluded when he says that the wicked shall be cast
into Gehenna; signifying that dead souls will be treated as
The Talmud says that the souls of those who have
not believed in immortality will not become immortal. It is faith only which
gives personal immortality;7 science and
reason can only affirm the general immortality.
The mortal sin is the suicide of the soul. This suicide would occur if
the man devoted himself to evil with the full strength of his mind, with
a perfect knowledge of good and evil, and an entire liberty of action which
seems impossible in practice, but which is possible in theory, because the
essence of an independent personality is an unconditioned
liberty. The divinity imposes nothing upon man, not even existence. Man
has a right to withdraw himself even from the divine goodness, and the dogma
of eternal hell is only the assertion of eternal free-will.
God precipitates no one into hell. It is men who can go there freely,
definitively and by their own choice.
Those who are in hell, that is to say, amid the gloom of evil8 and the sufferings of the necessary punishment,
without having absolutely so willed it, are called to emerge from it. This
hell is for them only a purgatory. The damned completely, absolutely and
without respite, is Satan who is not a rational existence, but a necessary
Satan is the last word of the creation. He is the end infinitely emancipated.
He willed to be like God of which he is the opposite. God is the hypothesis
necessary to reason, Satan the hypothesis necessary to unreason asserting
itself as free-will.
To be immortal in good, one must identify oneself with God; to be immortal
in evil, with Satan. These are the two poles of the world of souls; between
these two poles vegetate and die without remembrance the useless portion
Editor' s Note.--This may seem incomprehensible to the average
reader, for it is one of the most abstruse of the tenets of Occult doctrine.
Nature is dual: there is a physical and material side, as there is a spiritual
and moral side to it; and, there is both good and evil in it, the latter
the necessary shadow to its light. To force oneself upon the current of
immortality, or rather to secure for oneself an endless series of rebirths
as conscious individualities--says the Book of Khiu-te Vol. XXXI, one must
become a co-worker with nature, either for good or for bad,
in her work of creation and reproduction, or in that of destruction. It
is but the useless drones, which she gets rid of, violently ejecting and
making them perish by the millions as self-conscious entities. Thus, while
the good and the pure strive to reach Nipang (nirvana or that
state of absolute existence and absolute consciousness--which,
in the world of finite perceptions, is non-existence and non-consciousness)--the
wicked will seek, on the contrary, a series of lives as conscious, definite
existences or beings, preferring to be ever suffering under the law of retributive
justice rather than give up their lives as portions of the integral, universal
whole. Being well aware that they can never hope to reach the final rest
in pure spirit, or nirvana, they cling to life in any form,
rather than give up that "desire for life," or Tanha which
causes a new aggregation of Skandas or individuality to be reborn.
Nature is as good a mother to the cruel bird of prey as she is to the harmless
dove. Mother nature will punish her child, but since he has become her co-worker
for destruction she cannot eject him. There are thoroughly wicked and depraved
men, yet as highly intellectual and acutely spiritual for evil, as
those who are spiritual for good. The Egos of these may escape the
law of final destruction or annihilation for ages to come. That is what
Éliphas Lévi means by becoming "immortal in evil,"
through identification with Satan. "I would thou wert cold
or hot," says the vision of the Revelation to St. John (III.
15-16). "So then because thou art, lukewarm and neither cold
nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." The Revelation is
an absolutely Kabalistic book. Heat and cold are the two "poles,"
i.e., good and evil, spirit and matter. Nature
spues the "lukewarm" or "the useless portion of mankind"
out of her mouth, i.e., annihilates them. This conception
that a considerable portion of mankind may after all not have immortal souls,
will not be new even to European readers. Coleridge himself likened the
case to that of an oak tree bearing, indeed, millions of acorns, but acorns
of which under normal conditions not one in a thousand ever developed into
a tree, and suggested that as the majority of the acorns failed to develop
into a new living tree, so possibly the majority of men fail to develop
into a new living entity after this earthly death.
Satan is merely a type, not a real personage.
It is the type opposed to the Divine type, the necessary foil to this
in our imagination. It is the factitious shadow which renders visible to
us the infinite light of the Divine.
If Satan was a real personage then would there be two Gods, and the creed
of the Manicheans would be a truth.
Satan is the imaginary conception of the absolute in evil; a conception
necessary to the complete affirmation of the liberty of the human will,
which, by the help of this imaginary absolute seems able to equilibrate
the entire power even of God. It is the boldest, and perhaps, the sublimest
of the dreams of human pride.
"You shall be as Gods knowing good and evil," saith the allegorical
serpent in the Bible. Truly to make evil a science is
to create a God of evil, and if any spirit can eternally resist God, there
is no longer one God but two Gods.
To resist the Infinite, infinite force is necessary, and two infinite
forces opposed to each other must neutralize each other.9
If resistance on the part of Satan is possible the power of God no longer
exists, God and the Devil destroy each other, and man remains alone; he
remains alone with the phantom of his Gods, the hybrid sphynx, the winged
bull, which poises in its human hand a sword of which the wavering lightnings
drive the human imagination from one error to the other, and from the despotism
of the light, to the despotism of the darkness.
The history of mundane misery is but the romance of the war of the Gods,
a war still unfinished, while the Christian world still adores a God in
the Devil, and a Devil in God.
The antagonism of powers is anarchy in Dogma. Thus to the church which
affirms that the Devil exists the world replies with a terrifying logic:
then God does not exist; and it is vain to seek escape from this argument
to invent the supremacy of a God who would permit a Devil to bring about
the damnation of men; such a permission would be a monstrosity, and would
amount to complicity, and the god that could be an accomplice of the devil,
cannot be God.
The Devil of Dogmas is a personification of Atheism. The Devil of Philosophy
is the exaggerated ideal of human free-will. The real or physical Devil
is the magnetism of evil.
Raising the Devil is but realizing for an instant this imaginary personality.
This involves the exaggeration in one's self beyond bounds of the perversity
of madness by the most criminal and senseless acts.
The result of this operation is the death of the soul through madness,
and often the death of the body even, lightning-struck, as it were, by a
The Devil ever importunes, but nothing ever gives in return.
St. John calls it "the Beast" (la Bête) because
its essence is human folly (la Bêtise humaine).
Éliphas Lévi's (Bon Memori) creed, and
that of his disciples.
We believe in a God-Principle, the essence of all existence, of all good
and of all justice, inseparable from nature which is its law and which reveals
itself through intelligence and love.
We believe in Humanity, daughter of God, of which all the members are
indissolubly connected one with the other so that all must co-operate in
the salvation of each, and each in the salvation of all.
We believe that to serve the Divine essence it is necessary to serve
We believe in the reparation of evil, and in the triumph of good in the
H. P. BLAVATSKY
Theosophist, October, 1881