Eliphas Lévi and the French Occult Revival
by Christopher McIntosh
(Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2011)
This classic study is available again after being out of print and highly sought after for many years. Its central focus is Eliphas Lévi (1810-1875), would-be priest, revolutionary socialist, utopian visionary, artist, poet and, above all, author of a number of seminal books on magic and occultism. It is largely thanks to Lévi that the Tarot is so widely used today as a divinatory method and a system of esoteric symbolism. The magicians of the Golden Dawn were influenced by him, and Aleister Crowley believed himself to be Lévi’s reincarnation. The book is not only about Lévi and his era but also about the remarkable figures who preceded and followed him – the esoteric Freemasons and Illuminati of the 18th century, and later figures such as the Rosicrucian magus Joséphin Péladan, the occultist Papus (Gérard Encausse) and the writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, whose work drew strongly on occult themes. These people were avatars of a set of traditions which are now seen as an important part of the western heritage.