pseudonym for Alphonse Louis Constant,
a French occultist who is credited for reviving interest
in magick in the 19th century.
Although Levi studied magick,
he was considered to be more of an authority on the
subject than an adept
even though he professed to have succesfully practiced
the art of necromancy several times.
Being born in Paris,
Constant was the son of a simple shoemaker.
He showed great intelligence and
was formally educated at the church of St. Sulpice.
As a boy he quickly became intrigued with magick
and the occult sciences.
Also encouraging this curiosity was his head master's concept
of animal magnetism, in which the man claimed that the vital energy of the body was controlled by the Devil.
Nonetheless, Constant pursued the ecclesiastical studies
and became a priest.
His career in the priesthood was short lived because
of his left-winged political compositions and he found
it impossible to keep his vow of chastity.
For his controversial writings he served
three short prison sentences.
He became attracted to an eccentric, old man named
Ganneau, who said he was a prophet
and the reincarnation of Louis XVII.
Ganneau also claimed to be the reincarnation
Constant became a follower of Ganneau
and was drawn deeper into the worlds of magick
and the occult.
He married Noemie Cadot, who was age 18, in 1846.
The one daughter from the married couple died very young.
The marriage broke up in 1853 and was annulled in 1865.
For a time Constant lived off his writings and instructing
others in the occult.
It was during this time he took the name of
Magus Eliphas Levi,
the Hebrew equivalents of his first and middle names.
His first attempt at practicing necromancy came during
a trip to London in 1854.
A mysterious woman, claiming to be an adept, asked him
to conjure the spirit of Apollonius of Tyana,
a great, ancient magickian.
Agreeing to attempt the conjuration,
Levi went about his preparations,
which included two weeks on a vegetarian diet,
a week of fasting,
meditation about Apollonius and imagining having conversations
Once feeling ready for the ritual,
he dawned a white robe and entered his magic chamber that
had mirrors on the walls.
He placed a table covered with white lambskin
in the center of this room.
On the table he placed two metal bowls in which he lit
fires. Then he began his incantations which lasted for twelve hours.
Levi gave a description of the ritual.
He progressively grew colder as he proceeded
deeper into the ritual.
After apporximately twelve hours,
the floor beneath him began to shake.
He witnessed an apparition in one of the mirrors.
He asked the ghost to appear.
On his third request a grayish spirit appeared looking frail
and sad while wrapped from head to foot in a gray
shroud. Levi became frightened and felt extremely cold.
The apparition touched Levi's ritual sword causing his
arm to suddenly go numb.
He dropped the sword and suddenly lost consciousness.
As Levi related the tale,
his arm was sore for days after the event.
He never vocally asked any of his questions.
They were fixed in his mind only,
and the apparition answered them telepathically.
The answers, he revealed were "death" and "dead,"
but Levi never disclosed the questions.
Levi remained unconvinced that he conjured Apollonius in
that particular ritual,
although in other rituals claimed he conjured
Apollonius several times.
Levi's writings have been appraised as being highly imaginative
but not very accurate.
His first and probably most important work was
'The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic'.
It was followed by A History of Magic,
Transcendental Magic, The Key of Great Mysteries, and other
important occult books.
The imaginative criticism arose from the fact that Levi
"believed in the existence of a universal `secret doctrine' of magick throughout history, everywhere in the world."
In The Dogma, Levi devoted 22 chapters to the 22 trump
cards, or Major Arcana, of the Tarot.
He linked each to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet,
and to aspects of god.
Some experts called this a significant endeavor while others
claimed it to be simply ignorant.
Levi also proclaimed a theory of astral light based on
his belief in animal magnetism.
In his theory, astral light was similar to either, a fluidic
life force that fills all space and living beings.
This concept was not original but held by others
in the 19th century.
Levi stated, "To control the astral light was to control
all things, as a skilled magician's will was limitless in power."
Levi stated he was influenced by an earlier writer
and occultist named Francis Barrettt.
In turn he himself,
influenced another writer and occultist
Sir Edward BulwerLytton,
with whom he visited in London in 1861.
Bulwer-Lytton wrote 'The Last Days of Pompeii' and other
occult books helping to make magick popular
to the last of the 19th century.
Levi and Bulwer-Lytton both became members of an
which perhaps Bulwer-Lyttom may have organized,
that studied scrying, magic, astrology, and mesmerism.
Until his death Levi made his living from his occult writings
and lessons that he gave.
In his popularity he drew a cult following,
influencing others to write their own books.
'The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn',
founded in London in1888,
adopted much of Levi's magick.
Aliester Crowley, a former member,
was born the year that Levi died and claimed to be
the reincarnation of Levi.