Essay Selections by Éliphas Lévi (translated from French) | Notes by H.P.B.

The three Essays—the first of which is now given—belong to the unpublished MSS. of the late French Occultist, a series of whose other Lectures on Secret Sciences is being published serially in the Journal of the Theosophical Society. These three papers were kindly copied and sent for this Magazine by our respected Brother, Baron Spedalieri, F.T.S., of Marseilles. We hope to give, in good time, the translation of every scrap ever written by this remarkable “Professor of High Transcendental Sciences and Occult Philosophy,” whose only mistake was to pander rather conspicuously to the dogmas of the established church—the church that unfrocked him.

Essay 1. The Eggregores.1

One Spirit fills Immensity. It is the Spirit of God that nothing limits, nothing divides, which is all in all and everywhere; which pervades every atom, and that nothing can shut out.2

Created Spirits3 could not live without envelopes suited to their surroundings, permitting action while limiting it, and preventing them from becoming absorbed into the infinity. . . .

There can be no such things as spirits, formless or without an envelope.4 Their forms correspond to the sphere they inhabit; and in our atmosphere, for example, no spirits can exist save those of men—with bodies as we see them here—and those of animals, of whose nature and destiny we are so far ignorant.5 . . .

According to some ancient Hierophants matter is but the substratum of created spirits.6 Deity does not immediately create matter. Out of God emanate the powers, the Elohim, which constitute Heaven and Earth. According to this doctrine, the first sentence of Genesis ought to be interpreted in the following wise:—Bereshith, the head of first principle Bara, created (rather formed out of pre-existence material) the Elohim, the Powers7 Ath aschamain onath aoris, which are, or which (virtually) constitute heaven and earth. . . .

These Elohim or Powers are regarded as the great souls of worlds, whose forms would thus become the specified substances in their elementary virtues. In order to create a world, the Deity, it is said, had to bind together four genii, who in the act of resisting and wrestling first produced chaos; and who, forced to take rest after the struggle, thus formed the harmony of the Elements. . . . the great law of equilibrium or harmony—called the will of God—preventing the ever-going struggle from destroying the worlds, before the time allotted to them for their transfiguration.8 . . .

The worlds like the Elohim are bound together by magnetic chains which, in their everlasting mutiny, they try to break. Suns have other suns for rivals; planets other planets opposing the chains of attraction in equal energy of repulsion, to avoid being absorbed, and thus preserve each an individual existence.

These colossal powers have sometimes assumed a form and presented themselves under the appearance of giants: they are the Eggregores of the Book of Enoch:9 terrible creatures . . .

The study of nature enables us to observe contradictions that amaze us. We are detecting everywhere signs of intelligence, but as often we stumble upon, and have to recognize entirely blind forces.10 Scourges denote perturbations . . . Plagues, inundations, earth-quakes, famines are not the work of God. To attribute them to the devil, i.e., to an angel damned, whose evil deeds are permitted by God, amounts to calling God a hypocrite hiding behind the back of a responsible but evil-famed manager. . . .

According to the doctrine the planets busy themselves but with their sympathies and antipathies. Your sun—whose spots you regard as a commencement of his cooling off11—is slowly and fatally drawn toward the constellation of Hercules. One day he will become short of heat and light—for planets get old and have to die as well as men . . . A new creation will emerge out of chaos, and we shall be reborn as a new species better fitted to struggle against the stupid bulk of the Eggregores. Such changes will take place up to the time when the great Adam will be entirely reconstituted12—Adam—that Spirit of spirits, that Form of forms, that collective giant who makes up the totality of creation . . .

Essay 2: The Hebrew Letter Nun; or 13.

We have come to Number 13, the fatal number, from the word funus, funeral. It is the sacred number of death. . . .

Parturition is death—hence the suffering. But that death is followed by birth. The child dies in its vegetative life and is born unto the human life; then he will die in the human (the embryonic life of the soul) to be reborn to a more perfect life of freedom and intelligence: thus dying or rather being reborn from one sphere into another from one planet or world into another planet or world. Every limited or conditioned life is a gestation, every death a parturation, the ascending periods of life succeeding each other like so many days.13 Every night we fall asleep to awake the next morning. The divine sun gets never old, and the soul of the just is made in the image and likeness of that sun.14 . . .

When the bronze of the sculptor or rather of the caster fails to fill up the prepared mould, producing instead of a statue a formless ingot to be thrown back into the metal in fusion . . . what happens? Nature is the caster and her furnace is never extinguished. It is this, the true fire of hell.15 . . .

. . . God produces the cause and Nature works out the effects. God creates the types and Nature works out the individuals. Hence our Masters say that God created Adam immortal; the Adam Kadmon . . . It is the type of humanity glorious and all powerful: ever immortal, sin notwithstanding, but whose scattered limbs have fallen under the shadow of death, because feminine weakness prompted by the astral serpent caused it to face the Science of good and evil. This sin was foreseen by the Creator, whose will it was that the earth should be fecundated with the putrefaction of the peelings (shells) and the manure made of the royal corpses—of those seven Kings who could not live for the reason that they had become antagonistic to each other—three on one side and four on the other, instead of placing one in the middle, thus constituting a perfect balance. . . .16

What is the shape or form of a beautiful soul? Are there ugly souls? No. The soul is beautiful from its birth and does not admit of any defects; a defective soul cannot yet be called properly a soul:17 it is an elemental spirit, a spiritual larva. . . .

Our souls are made for a triple life—physical, metaphysical and divine; respectively known to the Kabalists under three names: Nephesch, Ruach, and Neschemah; or Psyche, the Nous, and the Logos, as the Alexandrian philosophers termed them.

It is through Psyche that we have a hold on our physical body; through the means of that plastic mediator which, properly speaking, is neither body, nor spirit, but serves as an instrument for both.18

What you call death is the sudden rupture of the exterior envelope and the enfranchisement of Psyche clad in her mediator,19 or her fluidic body. . . .

. . . But where is hell? Everywhere and nowhere. It is not a locality but a state. It is the latent and hazy state of souls that are disintegrating. This hell is silent and shut in like a tomb.20 Weeping and the gnashing of teeth precede it, but within it—there are no tears, as nothing lives in it save Death; and death is tearless for it is pitiless.

We know that death is composed of a series of successive deaths.21

God creates eternally. Creation is always beginning, and always ending in a relative sense. And as creation is eternal in all that is created, we must be also eternal . . . Adam, the protoplast, that is to say, humanity is the verb, the only son of God22 of whom it is said—ex-utero ante luciferum generi [“from the womb before the morning star I begot you”]. . . .

Whom does God address, when he is made to say (in Latin) faciamus hominem [“Let us make Man”, Genesis 1:26]. He speaks to man himself, to the man who is pre-existing in his creative thought, and who clamours for life. Why have we no recollection of our anterior lives? It is because we have hitherto failed to realize in ourselves the unity of the remembrance. But when that remembrance once returns, it will be eternal:23 in memoris eterno erit justus [in memoria æterna erit justus, “the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance”, Psalm 112:6]. . . .

Essay 3: The Soul

The Soul is eternal; and immortality means Eternity. Nothing can ascend to heaven that has not descended from heaven. Void not existing, can produce nothing. An Eternity that begins is a double absurdity, for it would presuppose an Eternity that has an end. Beginning and end are two words that exclude every idea of Eternity.

God is creating soul eternally.24 In this soul we were, into it we will return, but transfigured and strengthened by our trials. The conscience of the eternity is the intelligence of the sacrifice, for it is through sacrifice alone that man can commune with God.25 . . .

. . . Soul is one and multple. . . . Soul is the first creation of the verb; the verb is in her and yet ceases not for all that to be in God. Tu ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum [“Thou thyself were the life; and the life was the light of men.”, see: John 1:4].26 . . .

Soul is the directing and conservative principle of life; and God the creative and conservative principle of soul. . . . It is the universal soul that shapes the forms, but it does not create them, neither does it perceive them with any consciousness of their beauty. It acts like those weavers of the fine gobelin carpets, who copy servilely the pictures placed behind them and never look at them, doing their work with a mechanical but blind precision. . . .

Nature is but a collection of laws; that which renders them living and efficacious is the soul. This intelligence that manifests itself everywhere where there is life, not as an accident, but as a cause—it is the soul.27 . . .

Universal soul has itself for support or for substratum the primordial corporeal substance which is the vibrating and vibrated fluid that we call od, ob and aour.28 . . .

The occult soul is one, ad God is one, universal as himself, but through him. It is this soul that the BIble calls absolute man, this name including also the spirit of angels and the soul of the stars. This soul is “universal man” or the great Adam, the Adam Kadmon of the Kabalists. It is he who is the Macroprosopus of the “Sohar,” it is in him that we live, and move and have our being, as he lives and moves and has his being in God,29 who black mirage he is. . . .


1. The giants of Enoch.—Translator.

2. In other words, it is the confession of Vedantic faith: “All this universe indeed is Brahm; from brahm does it proceed; into Brahm it is dissolved; in Brahm it breathes.”

3. The term “created” is a perfect misnomer when used by an Occultist, and always a blind in the works of Éliphas Lévi, who is quite aware of the fallacy implied in the word “Creation,” in the theistic sense, and shows this repeatedly in his writings. It is the last tribute, we hope, paid by our century to an unscientific dogma of the Past.

4. Again an incorrect term. A “spirit” is––spirit only so long as it is formless and arupa; and it loses its name as soon as it becomes entangled in matter or substance of any kind known to us. A “Spiritual Entity” would answer better.

5. So little was E. L. “ignorant” of the nature—and ultimate destiny—of animals that he devotes to this a number of pages in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie. No true Occultist can be in the dark upon this subject. The prudent author pandered, we are afraid, to public prejudice and superstition.

6. Or the highest Dhyan Chohans of Occultism. At the beginning of Manvantara, the Fohat which they radiate awakens and differentiates Mahattattva, itself the radiation of Mulaprakriti.

7. Among the Hindus Kasyapa (Brahma) begets the Adityas (Dhyan Chohans).

8. This is the doctrine of the Manvantaric and 1st Pralayic periods plainly taught in Esoteric Buddhism.

9. The “giants” of Genesis who loved the daughters of men: an allusion to the first prehuman (so to say) races of men evoluted, not born—the Alpha and the Omega of Humanity in this our “Round.”

10. A “blind” action does not necessarily constitute an undeniable proof that the agent it emanates from is devoid of individual consciousness or “intelligence.” It may simply point out the superiority of one force over the other, domineering, and hence guiding forcibly the actions of the weakest. There are no “blind” forces in nature in the sense the author places on the adjective. Every atom of the universe is permeated with the Universal Intelligence, from the latent spark in the mineral up to the quasi-divine light in man’s brain. It is all as E. L. says “action and reaction,” attraction or repulsion, two forces of equal potentiality being often brought to a dead standstill only owing to a mutual neutralization of power.—Translator.

11. E. L. says “you regard”; for, he himself, as an Occultist, does not so regard them. The real occult doctrine upon solar physics is given out plainly enough in the September number of The Theosophist (1883), Art. Replies to an English F. T. S.

12. The seventh and last race of the seventh Round.

13. Read Esoteric Buddhism and compare both the phraseology used and the doctrines taught.

14. The “central sun” whence emanates and whither returns intelligence scattered throughout the universe. It is the one eternal universal focus, the central point “which is everywhere and nowhere” outbreathing and inbreathing its ever radiating rays. The “Soul of the just” is Avalokiteswara “made in the image and likeness” of Adi Buddha, Parabrahm.

15. Here the annihilation of “personality” is clearly hinted at, though the French Kabalist would have never dreamt, nor dared to declare the “bitter” truth as plainly as we are doing. Had we from the beginning assumed the policy of pandering to people’s prejudices and undeveloped ideas and given the name of “God” to the spiritual side of nature and of Creator to its physical potencies and called Spirit—Soul and vice versa, as necessary for concealing the unwelcome features of the doctrines taught—we would have had nearly all our present enemies on our side. Honesty, however, does not seem always the best policy,—not in the teaching of Truth, at any rate. We know of Western Occultists—among them pupils of Éliphas Lévi––who oppose the occult doctrines of the East as outlined in Esoteric Buddhism imagining them opposed to the Kabalistic doctrines and far more materialistic, atheistic and unscientific than those of their masters—the Judeo-Christian Kabalists. Let them understand well the real meaning of the comparison made by Éliphas Lévi, and see whether it is not in other words a perfect corroboration of the Eastern doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” in its application to the human personal soul. The “furnace of Nature” is the eighth sphere. When man fails to mould his soul “in the image and likeness of the great Adam”—we say of—Buddha, Krishna, or Christ (according to our respective creeds)—he is “a failure of nature” and nature has to remould the cast before it can launch it again on the shoreless Ocean of Immortality. “Statues—die,” in the words of E. L.—the metal of which they are cast “the perfect statue” never dies. It is a pity that Nature should not have consulted the sentimental prejudices of some people, and that so many of her great secrets and facts are so rudely opposed to human fictions.

16. Easy enough to perceive that E. L. hints at the 7 principles of man, but very difficult for one, unacquainted with occult terminology, to make out his meaning. The “middle” King is the body of Desire, the 4th principle, Kama-rupa. Had “Adam” or man, equilibrized the two triads by putting that body or his desires aside and thus triumphed over the evil counsel of his lower, animal triad, he would have caused the death of all except the 7th. This has reference to the psycho-physiological “mystery of the birth, life and death” of the 1st race in this Round.

17. And since it is a trite axiom—“like cause, like results,” then it necessarily follows that every bad result or effect has to be traced to the producer of the first cause––in other words to the “personal” god. We would rather decline for our deity such an imperfect Being.

18. A sheath as it is called in Sanskrit—and in the Vedanta philosophy Kama rupa is the sheath of Mayavi rupa, and that also of the body for the realization of its desires.

19Mayavi rupa, the objective portion of it.

20And this is the Eighth sphere.

21. The successive stages through which a doomed soul passes to final annihilation are here referred to. Some of these stages are undergone on this earth, and then the disintegrating entity is drawn into the attraction of the eighth sphere, and there remoulded to start on another journey through life with a renewed impulse. The stages above referred to are, according to the teachings of our philosophy, sixteen in number—the last two being, however, the different aspects of one and the same condition, the final extinction and re-formation.

22. On this, our Earth, of course.

23. Yes; on the day of Nirvanic Resurrection. See Esoteric Buddhism.

24. This assertion is only true in the sense that Parabrahman or Adi-Buddha is eternally manifesting itself as Jivatma (7th principle) or Avalokiteswara.—T. S.

“God is creating soul eternally” and “soul eternal” nevertheless! Can sense and logic be more sacrificed than to the fallacy of certain meaningless but holied words such as “creation”? Had E. L. said that “God is evolving soul eternally,” that would have sense; for here “God” stands for the Eternal Principle, Parabrahm, one of whose aspects is “Mulaprakriti” or the eternal root, the spiritual and physical germ of all—the soul and the body of the universe, both eternal [in] their ultimate constitution—which is one.

25. Surely, the “sacrifice” of our reason—if a personal God is meant.

26. What round-about prolific sentences to say that which can be expressed in a few words: God is nature, visible and invisible, and nature or Cosmos in its infinity is God! And yet E. L. was undoubtedly a great occultist.

27. We have been just told that soul only servilely copies “like the gobelin weavers” the ready models it finds, and that it is not conscious of the beauty of the forms it is shaping. What and wherefore the “intelligence” then?—God being intelligence itself, and the soul his agent likewise intelligent. Whence the imperfection, the evil, the failures of nature? Who is responsible for all this? Or shall we be answered by Christian occultists as we have hitherto been by their orthodox brethren: “the ways of Providence are mysterious and it is a sin to question them?”

It is in fact the Mahamaya of the Hindu occultists.—T. S.

28. And we the manifested prakriti (not differentiated).

29. Which amounts to saying that it is not in the personal Jehovah, the God of the Bible, that “we live and move and have our being,” but in Adam, the spirit of Adam—or Humanity in its universal and cosmical sense. This is in perfect accord with the occult doctrine; but what will the Theists and Christians say to this?

This universal soul is in fact the manifested Brahman of the Hindu philosophers and Avalokiteswara of the Buddhist occultists.—T. S.