To the student of occultism few more absorbing subjects present themselves than that of the Astral Light; and when one considers its strange sights and sounds, the mysterious creatures by whom it is inhabited, the enormous and incalculable influence it exerts on our lives and destinies, it is not surprising that information should eagerly be sought from the explorers of so fascinating a region. One of the most indefatigable of these inquirers was the late Abbe Constant — better known, perhaps, under the non de plume of "Eliphas Levi." As his works, however, are not translated, there are many would-be readers to whom they are not accessible; and it is in the belief that, to such, a brief compendium of his more important remarks would be not unwelcome, the following Notes made by a theosophist in the course of his own studies are offered.
If they should seem lacking in symmetry, or even entire continuity, it must be borne in mind that they are only what they profess to be — "Notes"; or, more correctly speaking, verbatim extracts from the various volumes in which this subject is treated of, often in connection with other, though kindred topics; they may fairly claim to be faithful and accurate translations — as any one may verify — but they make no pretense to literary finish; they are simply the words of the author, without alteration or comment; for this reason quotation marks are unnecessary, all that follows this paragraph being translation pure and simple.
The primordial light vehicle of all ideas, is the Mother of all forms, and transmits them from emanation to emanation, diminished or altered only by the density of the surroundings; the forms of objects, being modifications of this light, remain in the light where they are reflected back; thus the Astral Light, or the terrestrial fluid termed the Grand Magical Agent, is saturated with images or reflections of all kinds, which the soul can evoke and submit to what the Kabbalists call its "lucidity."
These images are always before us, and are only temporarily obscured by the more obtrusive impressions of reality during our waking hours, or by the pre-occupation of our thoughts, which render our imagination inattentive to the shifting panorama of the Astral Light; when we are asleep, they present themselves to us of their own accord and thus dreams are produced; dreams which are vague and incoherent, unless some dominant wish remains active during our sleep and gives, although unknown to us, a direction to the dream, which thus becomes a vision.
The Astral Light acts directly upon the nerves, which are its conductors in the physical economy, and which convey it to the brain; thus a somnambulist can see by the nerves, without needing material light; the astral fluid containing latent light, just as science recognizes latent heat.
The empire of the Will over the Astral Light, which is the physical soul of the four elements, is symbolized in Magic by the Pentagram; by means of this we can compel spirits to appear in visions, either when awake or asleep, by bringing before our lucidity their reflection which exists in the Astral Light, if they have lived, or the reflection of their spiritual nature, if they have never lived; this explains all visions, and demonstrates, especially, why those who see the dead see them always either as they were when alive, or as they are while yet in the grave, and never as they are in that state of existence which escapes the perception of our present organization.
When the Magician has attained perfect lucidity, he can direct at will the magnetic vibrations in the whole mass of the Astral Light; by means of these vibrations he can influence the nervous systems of persons, quicken or retard the currents of life, soothe or trouble, cure or make ill — in a word, kill or raise from the dead. The lucid will is able to act upon the mass of the Astral Light, and, in concert with other wills which it thus absorbs and utilizes, compels immense and irresistible currents. It should also be noted that the Astral Light can render itself denser or rarer, according as the currents accumulate or scatter it, at given centres; when it lacks sufficient energy to nourish life, there result diseases which terminate with fatal suddenness, and are the despair of physicians.
The Astral Light is the omnipresent tempter, symbolized by the serpent of Genesis; this subtle agent, ever active, ever abounding in power, flowing with seductive dreams and pleasing images; this force blind in itself, and swayed by the wills of others either for good or evil; this circulating medium, ever vivified with unquenchable life, that causes vertigo to the rash spectator; this material spirit, this fiery body, this impalpable and all-pervading ether, this enormous seduction of Nature — how shall we define its entirety, how qualify its actions? Indifferent, so to speak, in its nature, it lends itself alike to good or evil — it diffuses light and brings darkness; it is a serpent, but also an aureole; it is fire, but it may either be that which belongs to the torments of Hell, or that which carries up the incense offered to Heaven.
To be its master, we must, like the woman of the Bible, trample its head under our feet.
To vanquish the serpent, that is to dominate the circle of the Astral Light, we must be able to place ourselves outside of its currents; in other words, to insulate ourselves. This torrent of universal life is also pictured in religious dogmas as the expiatory fire of Hell. It is the instrument of Initiation, the monster to be subdued, the enemy to be vanquished; it produces the larvae and phantoms that respond to the evocations and conjurations of Black Magic; in it are preserved those forms whose fortuitous and fantastic assemblage people our nightmares with such abominable monsters. To allow ourselves to be swept away by this raging flood is to fall into abysses of madness more frightful than death, to drive away the darkness of this chaos and compel it to give perfect forms to our ideas, is to create, to have triumphed over Hell. The Astral Light directs the instincts of animals, and combats the intelligences of man, which it tends to pervert by the splendour of its reflections and the falsity of its images; this fatal and unavoidable tendency guides and renders still more injurious, the Elementals and Elementaries; whose restless desires seek sympathy in our weakness, and tempt us not so much in order to cause our destruction, as for their own benefit. The Book of Conscience, which according to the Christian dogmas is to be made manifest at the Last Judgment, is nothing more or less than the Astral Light, in which are preserved the impressions of all our words, that is to say of all our deeds and of all forms.
Those who renounce the empire of reason, and allow their will to wander after the reflections of the Astral Light are subject to alternations of madness and melancholy, which lead them to imagine these wonders to be the result of possessions of a demon; and there is no doubt that by means of these reflections evil spirits are able to influence impure souls and make them their docile instruments, and cause them to torment the organisms in which they dwell. It is, therefore, extremely dangerous to trifle with the mysteries of Magic, and above all supremely rash to practice its rites from curiosity, and by such experiments to tempt the higher powers; and the inquisitive who, not being Adepts, meddle with evocations or occult magnetism, are like children playing on a barrel of gunpowder — sooner or later they will be the victims of a terrible explosion. To insulate ourselves from the Astral Light, it does not suffice merely to envelope ourselves in a mantle of wool, as did Apollonius of Tyana; above and beyond all, the heart and spirit must be absolutely calm, freed from the dominion of the passions, and assured of perseverance in action by an inflexible will; and these acts of will must be ceaselessly repeated, for only by persistence in such acts does the will become strong. There are certain intoxicating substances which, by heightening the nervous susceptibility, augment the power of the representations of the Astral Light and consequently increase its seductions; by means of these, also, when used in a contrary direction, spirits can be terrified or subdued.
In order to command the Astral Light, it is necessary to understand its double vibration, and the balance of forces known as magic equilibrium.
This equilibrium, regarded in its primal cause, is the will of God: in man, it is liberty; in matter, it is mathematical equilibrium. Equilibrium produces stability and duration. Liberty brings forth the immortality of man, and the will of God formulates the laws of eternal right. Equilibrium in ideas is wisdom; in forces it is power; equilibrium is rigorous, if the law is kept, it exists; if it be violated, though ever so little, it does not exist. It is for this reason that nothing is useless, or wasted, every word, every motion, is for or against equilibrium, for or against Truth; for equilibrium represents Truth, which is composed of contraries which are reconciled, or at least equilibrated. Almighty power is the most absolute Liberty; but absolute Liberty cannot exist without perfect equilibrium; magic equilibrium is therefore one of the first conditions of success in the operations of science; and we must seek it even in occult chemistry by learning to combine contraries without neutralizing them. By magic equilibrium is explained the great and ancient mystery of the existence and relative necessity of Evil; this relative necessity, in Black Magic, furnishes a measure of the power of demons, or evil spirits, to whom the virtues practised on earth impart more fury, and apparently more power.
(To be continued.)
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