The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Levi, Eliphas (c.1810—October 12, 1875)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
French occultist Eliphas Levi exerted tremendous influence over contemporary metaphysical traditions. He was born Alphonse Louis Constant in Paris, a shoemaker’s son. He was educated at Roman Catholic schools and at the seminary of St Sulpice, and was eventually ordained as a deacon in 1835. He had an early fascination with the occult, especially the works of Cornelius Agrippa and Francis Barrett’s grimoire The Magus. He studied the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and pursued studies in advanced Kabalah.
He was eventually expelled from St Sulpice; exactly why is unclear. Various reasons have been offered: either he taught doctrines contrary to the Church, had radical political values, difficulty maintaining his vow of celibacy, or all or some of the above. He eventually adopted the magical name Eliphas Levi.
His first book, The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, was published in 1861 and linked Tarot to the Kabalah and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. He connected the four suits of cards to the four natural elements and the four letters of the Tetragrammaton.
Levi was a powerful influence on the Golden Dawn, who incorporated Levi’s rituals, and also on Aleister Crowley who, born on the day Levi died, believed himself to be a reincarnation of Levi.
Levi committed his life to metaphysical study and practice. He suffered tremendous financial hardship—at one point he was virtually homeless. However, Adolphe Desbarolles, a successful palm-reader, came to his assistance, giving him a room in a lovely house at 19, Avenue de Maine in Paris, where Levi began attracting students. He taught various occult arts until his death.
His works include Doctrine of Transcendental Magic, History of Magic, The Key of the Grand Mysteries, and Fables and Symbols.