Keith's Reviews > Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Transcendental Magic by Éliphas Lévi
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's review
Jul 12, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: spirituality, thelema, _on-hand, qabala, reference, tarot, egc, z-batt
Recommended to Keith by: O.T.O.
Read from July 30 to December 29, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

I find it difficult to review this book.

Clearly, for anyone involved in the Western Mystery Traditions, especially magick, hermeticism, modern tarot, or Thelema, this is foundational material. Yet Lévi comes off as conflicted between his occult interests and his ambivalent relationship to the Church of Rome. Moreover, Waite's footnotes are as often disparaging as illuminating, and his apparent disdain for the author leads me to wonder why he bothered completing the translation at all. It is high time for a new translation in a modern context less riddled with personal opinions.

Still, there is much to value here, as can be seen from the quotes listed here, at least one of which has greatly aided my own understanding of the practice of the Qabalistic Cross. The book overall improved my knowledge of the roots of ceremonial magick in the modern era.

Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to recommend it outright. So much of it is contradictory, or amounts to little more than a confusing attempt at a faux-medieval grimoire, or misquotes the luminary alchemists and practitioners of prior ages, that it seems to me like one would have to be quite well established on one's own path before this tome could do anything other than muddy the waters.

On a more practical note, the typeset of the 1972 Weiser edition (published under the same ISBN as the later edition pictured) frankly sucks, and the index is just this side of worthless. I suspect that those are the sort of problems that such a well-respected publisher may have rectified in the more recent reprint, but I have not seen it so I cannot say.

So my bottom line is: useful for the intermediate student of the mysteries, possibly essential to the advanced practitioner, and little more than a historical curiosity to anyone else.
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Quotes Keith Liked

Éliphas Lévi
“However, as a guarantee of its renewed youth, the symbolical phoenix never reappeared before the eyes of the world without having consumed solemnly the remains and evidences of its previous life. So also Moses saw to it that all those who had known Egypt and her mysteries should end their life in the desert; at Ephesus St Paul burnt all books which treated of the occult sciences; and in fine, the French Revolution, daughter of the great Johannite Orient and the ashes of the Templars, spoliated the churches and blasphemed the allegories of the Divine Cultus. But all doctrines and all revivals proscribe Magic and condemn its mysteries to the flames and to oblivion. The reason is that each religion or philosophy which comes into the world is a Benjamin of humanity and insures its own life by destroying its mother. It is because the symbolical serpent turns ever devouring its own tail; it is because, as essential condition of existence, a void is necessary to every plenitude, space for every dimension, an affirmation for each negation: herein is the eternal realization of the phoenix allegory.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“The triad, being the fundamental principle of the whole Kabalah, or Sacred Tradition of our fathers, was necessarily the fundamental dogma of Christianity, the apparent dualism of which it explains by the intervention of a harmonious and all-powerful unity. Christ did not put His teaching into writing, and only revealed it in secret to His favored disciple, the one Kabalist, and he a great Kabalist, among the apostles. So is the Apocalypse the book of the Gnosis or Secret Doctrine of the first Christians, and the key of this doctrine is indicated by an occult versicle of the Lord's Prayer, which the Vulgate leaves untranslated, while in the Greek Rite, the priests only are permitted to pronounce it. This versicle, completely kabalistic, is found in the Greek text of the Gospel according to St Matthew, and in several Hebrew copies, as follows:

Ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα εις τοὺς αἰῶνας. ἀμήν.

The sacred word MALKUTH substituted for KETHER, which is its kabalistic correspondent, and the equipoise of GEBURAH and CHESED, repeating itself in the circles of heavens called eons by the Gnostics, provided the keystone of the whole Christian Temple in the occult versicle. It has been retained by Protestants in their New Testament, but they have failed to discern its lofty and wonderful meaning, which would have unveiled to them all the Mysteries of the Apocalypse. There is, however, a tradition in the Church that the manifestation of this mysteries is reserved till the last times.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“In olden times gold was manufactured by science; nowadays science must be renewed by gold. We have fixed the volatile and we must now volatilize the fixed—in other words, we have materialized spirit, and we must now spiritualize matter.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Those who abdicate the empire of reason and permit their wills to wander in pursuit of reflections in the Astral Light, are subject to alternations of mania and melancholy which have originated all the marvels of demoniacal possession, though it is true, at the same time, that by means of these reflections impure spirits can act upon such souls, make use of them as docile instruments and even habitually torment their organism, wherein they enter and reside by obsession, or embryonically. These kabalistic terms are explained in the Hebrew book of the Revolution of Souls, of which our thirteenth chapter will contain a succinct analysis. It is therefore extremely dangerous to make sport of the Mysteries of Magic; it is above all excessively rash to practice its rites from curiosity, by way of experiment and as if to exploit higher forces. The inquisitive who, without being adepts, busy themselves with evocations or occult magnetism, are like children playing with fire in the neighborhood of a cask of gunpowder; sooner or later they will fall victims to some terrible explosion.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“When Christianity proscribed the public exercise of the ancient worships, the partisans of the latter were compelled to meet in secret for the celebration of their mysteries. Initiates presided over these assemblies and soon established a kind of orthodoxy among the varieties of persecuted worships, this being facilitated by the aid of magical truth and by the fact that proscription unites wills and forges bonds of brotherhood between men.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“It must be pleasant to be occasionally guilty of a small abomination.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Weakness ever sympathizes with vice, because vice is a weakness which assumes the mask of strength. Madness holds reason in horror, and on all subjects it delights in the exaggerations of falsehood. The cause of all bewitchments, the poison of all philtres, the power of all sorcerers are there.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Occult Medicine is essentially sympathetic. Reciprocal affection, or at least real goodwill, must exist between doctor and patient. Syrups and juleps have very little inherent virtue; they are what they become through the mutual opinion of operator and subject; hence homoeopathic medicine dispenses with them and no serious inconvenience follows.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Everything is possible to him who wills only what is true! Rest in Nature, study, know, then dare; dare to will, dare to act and be silent!”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Like all magical mysteries, the secrets of the Great Work have a triple meaning: they are religious, philosophical and natural. Philosophical gold in religion is the Absolute and Supreme Reason; in philosophy, it is truth; in visible nature, it is the sun: in the subterranean and mineral world, it is the purest and most perfect gold. Hence the search after the Great Work is called the Search for the Absolute, and this work itself is termed the operation of the sun.”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Éliphas Lévi
“Religion realizes philosophy by adapting it to the weaknesses of the vulgar....”
Éliphas Lévi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual

Reading Progress

08/01/2012 page 24
5.0% "Doctrine—Introduction"
08/20/2012 page 62
13.0% "IV ד D—The Tetragram: Geburah, Chesed, Porta Librarum, Elementa"
08/23/2012 page 94
20.0% "IX ט I—Initiation: Jesod Bonum"
08/27/2012 page 118
25.0% "XI ל L—The Great Work: Discite Crux"
08/29/2012 page 137
29.0% "XV ס P—Black Magic: Samaël Auxiliator"
09/12/2012 page 227
47.0% "Ritual III—The Triangle of Pantacles"
11/21/2012 page 332
69.0% "Ritual XVI — Witchcraft and Spells"
12/24/2012 page 354
73.0% "Ritual XVIII — Philtres and Magnetism"
12/26/2012 page 378
78.0% "Ritual XXI — The Science of the Prophets"
12/29/2012 page 412
85.0% "Ritual XXII — The Book of Hermes"
06/06/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Celeste Waite did so much translating work, I often wonder which works he translated as a labor of love, and which ones he did just for the money.

Keith I suspect that, in some cases, his motive was essentially to show off: self aggrandizement in the form of "this guy is revered, but look how much better I am!"

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