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Eliphas Levi

Eliphas Levi (the pen name of Abbé Louis Constant, 1810-1875), was a French occultist who is credited for reviving interest in magic in the 19th century. 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 occult books. Levi "believed in the existence of a universal 'secret doctrine' of magic throughout history, everywhere in the world."

In The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, 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.

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; a skilled magician's will was limitless in power."

Levi stated he was influenced by an earlier writer and occultist Francis Barrett. In turn he influenced another writer and occultist Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, with whom he visited in London in 1861. Bulwer-Lytton wrote The Last Days of Pompeii and other occult books helping to make magic fashionable to the last of the 19th century. They both became members of an occult group, which perhaps Bulwer-Lytton may have organized, that studied scrying, magic, astrology, and mesmerism. 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 in 1888, adopted much of Levi's magic. Aleister Crowley, a former member, was born the year that Levi died and claimed to be the reincarnation of Levi.

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