Eliphas levi (Alphonse Louis Constant)

(February 8, 1810 – May 31, 1875)

   A french occultist and writer that made a great impact on a number of esoteric and magical orders in 19th century. Born in Paris as the only son of a shoemaker, the only way to get a decent education was to become a priest.  He was sent to a seminary of Saint Nichols du Chardonnet and later to  Saint Sulpice. It was there where he become intrigued with a mystical vital force that was than called animal magnetism, allegedly controlled by the Devil himself. He was determined to gain as much knowledge about that force he could. He begun to study all he could find about the magic and the occult.

   In his early 20's he became a follower of an obscure couple that belived they were reincarnations of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In that time he started writing some of his religiously orientated books but in 1848 in the time of the French revolution he was thrown out of the church, excommunicated and incarcerated because of his leftist views. After that, while in the rather problematic financial situation he started to work as a journalist and give lessons about the occult practices under a pseudonym 'Magus Eliphas Levi', translation of his name into Hebrew.

  In 1854 he travelled to England to give lectures in London but his lousy knowledge of English hindered him. Nevertheless he made a friendship with Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a leading authority on the field of esoteric and occult practices in England at that time. He was presiding a local Rosicrucian group and asked him to write down his treatise on magic. He wrote Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1855, one of the most influential writings at that time that heavily influenced groups such as S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia), the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Theosophical Society.

   Front page of the book has a very familiar image to all who were in contact with the occult, the image that we can connect to The Devil in Raider-Waite Tarot deck. No wonder it is A. E. Waite who afterwards translated his book.

"Sabbatic Goat", by Eliphas Lévi, "sum total of the universe", male and female, good and evil
today usually associated with the term "Baphomet".

  In Arthur Edward Waite’s translation of his work: Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual, we can find an interesting account of a ceremony where after three weeks of fasting and preparation he commenced 12 hours of incantations after which purportedly a floor began to shake and a ghostly apparition appeared. For Levi that was very stressfull and dangerous encounter. He was feeling very cold and when the apparition touched his ritual sword his hand had gone numb for two days. He later declared similar actions very damaging to the persons involved.

 His works are filled with tarot allusions though he never wrote a book specifically aiming on that theme. Like his "successor" A. E. Waite he also believed that there is one source and one doctrine of all magic that could be seen around the world, he also introduced the concept of "Astral Light" in  connection with the animal magnetism. In his late years he lived comfortably from his lessons and writings. He died the same year Alister Crowley was born, the former often claiming he was his reincarnation. He wasn't an advocate of the Egyptian origin of the tarot that Court De Gebelin had proposed, he was centered around the Tarot de Marseille as the beginning of the divinatory Tarot, connecting it with Kabbala and even suggesting that the Major Arcana represents the stages in life.