Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival. Front Cover. Christopher McIntosh. Rider, – Social Science – pages. I recently published a new article / review of McIntosh’s seminal work of occult history “Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival.” It features. Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival has 27 ratings and 1 review. Michael said: I enjoyed this book so much that I started rereading it when I fini.

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Throughout this historical narrative, there is always the suggestion of a flourishing occult revival occurring in France, but often little by way of details.

Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival by Christopher McIntosh

The founders of the great occult orders have all acknowledged a debt to the French draughtsman, former cleric, philosopher, and occult scholar. In English language surveys of the occult revival, there is a decided focus on the Victorian manifestations of Rosicrucianism. France was the perfect ecosystem for such a range of mystical and political entities to come to life during the tumultuous hundred years between the revolution and the late nineteenth century.

Throughout the book, the notion that the occult and revolution are inexorably linked becomes clear. Esoteric orders flourish when the old orders are shown to be crumbling, when established eliphss shows its weakness, and the people glimpse something more between the cracks in the walls.

It is often borne from equal measures of hope, desperation, disgust, and ennui. Divided into three sections, the book begins by laying the foundations of its narrative in the pre-revolutionary cults of ceremonial magicians and the 18th century rise of Freemasonry. Following the French Revolution and rise of the Enlightenment, McIntosh examines how the cultural consciousness of France was torn between mystery and mimesis.

Even in the throes of an anti-monarchist and anti-clerical revolt, the people seemed to long for and deeply need both mystery and ceremony. With the execution of King Louis XVIIthe ,evi were laid for later amalgamates of mystical and political groups to spring up in support of a return to the monarchy.


This intersectionality between class, politics, and the occult seems particular to the French revival compared to its, comparatively, less political Victorian English counterpart.

Many of the French orders espoused an ideology of divine kingship and spiritual theocracy. Against this historical backdrop, we meet a elophas cast of vibrant characters like Martinez de PasquallyEtteillaCagliostroand Comte de St. Particularly interesting is Anton Mesmerthe founder of Mesmerism whose theories of fluids and their influence found many adherents eevival the esotericists of France and abroad. Pasqually created what might be considered the first modern ceremonial magical order as well as being the father of the esoteric strain of Freemasonry known as Martinism.

He died in the Caribbean on the island of Saint-Domingue now known as Haiti. During his time there, he seems to have influenced occult orders in the region. This connection to Martinez de Pasqually and the Martinists can be tbe across the diasporic practices of the Caribbean and South America, from Voudu to Umbanda.

Pasqually is even cited as part of the spiritual lineage of Michael Bertiaux revivak the Monastery of 7 Rays. Concurrent to the development of the various occult orders, McIntosh spends a great deal of time tracing the history and development of the tarot as we know it today. He begins with Antoine Court de Gebelinwho first drew an esoteric connection between the mysterious Frebch game of cards and the ancient Book of Thoth.

We also meet his successor Etteilla, who published his own methods of divination called cartonomancy not to be confused with cartomancy. Etteilla built an elaborate esoteric system around the deck incorporating the four elements and astrology.

We meet many of his confidants, friends, and even enemies in the guise of renegade Satanists and the occasional charlatan.

Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival – Christopher McIntosh – Google Books

These men were members of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, the precursor group to the more widely known Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Even the novelist Joris Karl Huysmans would find himself enmeshed in the drama.


Stanislas de Guaita was a French poet based in Paris, an expert on esotericism and European mysticism, and an active member of the Rosicrucian Order. He designed the original goat pentagram, which first appeared in the book La Clef de la Magie Noirein This symbol would later become synonymous with Baphomet, and is commonly referred to as the Sabbatic Goat.

In reality, his work is far more nuanced than mere satanic posturing. Boullan forged a friendship with novelist J. He tends to reference people by name several times before introducing them in the text, and some narrative strains are simply dropped. The book also suffers from various typographical errors.

“Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival” by Christopher McIntosh

Perhaps the most striking is on page where the famous eighteenth-century French conjurer Robert Houdin is misnamed Robert Houdini! These errors seem to be carried over from the previous Rider fliphas of the book.

In addition to the intricate and deeply informative network of facts and connections within the text, we also find a few interesting synchronicities. It is invaluable to have it back in circulation and easily available in print and e-reader formats from the SUNY Press.

To anyone who is seeking a highly readable survey of this formative era in occultism can do no better than to look here. Search anything and hit enter.

The goat pentagram was first designed by de Guaita. Noted French prestidigitator Robert Houdin… not Houdini!

Levi smoking opium on his deathbed.