This selection is taken from an article written by the famous Rosicrucian Alphonse Constant (Eliphas Levi) and later published as part of his posthumous work, "The Great Secrets of the Occult Revealed". Its language is characteristic of the European writers of the mid XIX century, but the concepts offered remain of great interest to the readers of the "Triangle of Light" and for that reason we are pleased to publish it here for your reading pleasure.
Wisdom, morality, and virtue: respectable words but vague. Their nature has been disputed for many centuries yet they are still not understood.
We would all like to be wiser, but what will wisdom bring us? So often it seems that lunatics are happier and more cheerful than we are.
It is necessary to have good morals, but sometimes we are all like children: then morality wearies us. How often they teach us silly moralities that do not suit our nature. When speaking about matters that don't interest us our thoughts soon turn to other things.
Virtue is such an excellent idea: the very word speaks of the ability to be strong. The world survives by the virtue of God. But what constitutes virtue for us? Is it a virtue to have an empty mind and a gentle expression on the face? Shall we call a simple man virtuous even though he is a robber and a villain? Is it virtue to abstain from excesses? What are we to think of a man who abstains from walking for fear of breaking a leg? Virtue, in all things, is the opposite of a passive inactivity. Virtue supposes action; if we commonly act with virtue in opposing passions it is evident that virtue is never passive. Virtue is not force alone; it is also reason directed force. It is the power of balance in life.
The great secret of virtue, of virtuous living, whether transient or eternal can be summarized this way: It is the art of balancing forces to achieve a balanced outcome.
Balance does not produce immobility, but carries movement forward. Immobility is death and movement is life.
This balanced motion is the driving force of nature. Nature, balancing the forces of fate, produces the detrimental health issues of the unbalanced man that appear to lead to his destruction. Man is liberated from the detriments of nature when he knows how to remove himself from the fatality of circumstances by intelligent employment of his free will. I use the word fatality here because the accidents and incomprehensible forces of nature seem fatal to man, yet we have no real indication that this is actually true.
Nature has provided for the preservation of the animals by endowing them with instincts, but has also ordered things in such a way as to assure that an imprudent man will perish. Animals live, so it is said, for the moment and without effort. Man should learn how to live this way as well. The science of living is the science of moral balance. To reconcile knowledge and religion, reason and feeling, energy and gentleness, these are the foundation of balance.
Truly invincible power is power without violence. Violent men are weak and imprudent men whose efforts turn and act against them. The violent affect is as offensive as that of hate and is well avoided.
Anger surrenders a person up blindly to his enemies. When the heroes described by the Greek poet Homer fight, they guard against being too provoked by insults less, in reciprocating, they are lost to furry, the most furious on both sides will be the first to fall.
The mettlesome Achilles was fated to perish in an unfortunate manner. It was the most cavalier and valiant of the Greeks who brought disaster upon their fellow citizens.
It is the wise and patient Ulysses who takes Troy. He knows how to keep himself in control and strike only when the blow is sure. Achilles represents passion and Ulysses, virtue. It is from this point of view that we should try to understand the high philosophical and moral teachings in the poems of Homer.
Without a doubt the author of these poems was an initiate of high order. The Grand Secret of High practical Magic is wholly expressed in the Odyssey. The Grand Secret of Magic, the unique and incommunicable Secret, as represented in this tale, is revealed as the divine power in service to man's will.
To arrive at the realization of this Secret it is necessary to KNOW what should be done, to WANT it, to DARE to do that which is right, and REMAIN SILENT when discretion calls for it.
Homer's Ulysses struggles against the gods, the elements, the Cyclops, the sirens, Circe, etc. That is, he confronts all of the difficulties and dangers of life.
His dwelling is invaded, his wife taken, he is himself threatened with death, he loses comrades and his ships are sunk - in short, he is alone in his fight against darkness and evil. It is in this way, alone, that he appeases the gods, escapes from evil, blinds the Cyclops, evades the sirens, defeats Circe, recovers his palace, liberates his wife, and kills those who would have killed him. All this because he wanted to see Ithaca and Penelope again, and because he always knew how to escape from danger. He dared to be decisive and remained silent whenever it was advisable to say nothing.
Those who love to look for unknown devices and secrets will declare that this is not magic. Is it not the charms, herbs and roots that make magicians effective? Where are the mysterious formulas that will open closed doors and make the spirits appear? Speak to us of this and leave your comments on the Odyssey for another occasion.
If you have read my preceding works, you know that I recognize the relative effectiveness of the formulas, of the herbs and of the charms. But these are only small things connected to small mysteries. I speak to you now of the great moral forces and not material devices. Formulas belong to rites of initiation; charms are auxiliaries to magic, herbs belong to the secrets of medicine, and in fact Homer did not scorn them. The Moly, the Lothos and the Nepenthes have their place in these poems, but they are accessories, like ornaments. The glass of Circe is no threat to Ulysses who knows of its fateful effects and also knows how to avoid drinking it. The initiate of the high science of the magicians has no fear of witchdoctors.
People who practice ceremonial magic and consult fortune-tellers and such hope and desire, by their devoted practice of these things, to establish a true religion. Such people will never willingly listen to wise advice. They all keep a secret that is very easy to guess, and which could be expressed this way: "I have a passionate desire that reason cannot understand and which I place ahead of reason; it is for that reason that I consult the raving oracle who helps me to overcome my reason and find peace in my heart."
After drinking deeply from the fountain of delusion their thirst soon returns, ever increasing. The charlatans offer obscure declarations in which people hear what they want to hear. They return the next day hoping for clarification, they always return, and in this way the charlatans make a fortune.
The Gnostics said that Sophia, mankind's natural wisdom, is so enamored of itself that, like Narcissus in classic mythology, its sight is diverted from seeing inner principles and looks to its outer image for divine light. Having so abandoned themselves to darkness they make a sacrilege of the light. But a hemorrhage like that mentioned in the Gospel causes them to lose their blood, transforming them into hideous monsters. Nothing in all this madness is more dangerous than the corruption of knowledge.
A corrupted heart poisons the whole nature. For them the splendor of beautiful days is a tedious burden as are all the pleasures of life so that the lifeless souls of these dead rise up like Richard III's ghost to lament; "all is despair and death." With a very great enthusiasm they assault the love of beauty with vengeance and the insolent scorn of Stenos and Rollin. We should never fall into the accursed arms of fatality but fight against and conquer it. Those who succumb in that combat are the ones who have no understanding or no will to triumph. A lack of understanding may be an excuse, but not justification, since they can learn. At his crucifixion Christ said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." If in truth they did not understand the message of the Savior then there was nothing for which they needed to be forgiven.
When people do not know, they should desire learning. While those who do not know may be bold and daring, it is always best to know, however we remain silent.