Blavatsky questions Eliphas Levi interpretation of the Astral Light and Lucifer
What is called energy and force in Science is the very soul of the world, and light is according to the Occult Philosophy of the Alchemists, a spiritual secretion. The knowledge of the real nature of Light will, we are told, lead to the knowledge of what is called the correlation of Forces, the phenomena of which is entirely natural, and is not governed by any particular god. It is the propelling activity of atoms that fill Space, that by their continuous vibration, H.P.B. states, are that Motion, “which keep the Wheels of Life perpetually going.” So, in the 19th century, there is this theory, which is called the Luminiferous aether theory. The Astral Light is not a cosmic and anthropomorphic being, but a theory about the medium of all light, energy, and movement.
Eliphas Levi calls the Astral Light lucifer, Satan, the great Serpent and the Dragon “from which radiates on Humanity every evil influence.” H.P.B. explains that perhaps to the second half, but why use Biblical terminology and be literal? She blames this mistake on his Catholic-Jesuit learning.
The Astral, or “Sidereal Light” (a term of medieval alchemists and Christian esotericists) is not a person, but a theory about the medium of all light, energy, and movement, which was said to be in accordance with the Luminiferous aether theory of the 19th century. It is defined as being the pure reflection of the higher planes, the “phosphorescent radiation” of the universal Substance. In what line of the Bible is this idea even remotely justified, in hysterically viewing H.P.B.’s elucidation on the theory as Luciferian, or Satanist:
“In its primordial genesis, the astral light as a radiation is quite pure, though the lower it descends approaching our terrestrial sphere, the more it differentiates, and becomes as a result impure in its very constitution. But man helps considerably in this pollution, and gives it back its essence far worse than when he received it.” (H.P. Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary, TPH, 1918 ed, pg. 35.)
H.P.B. further specifies a difference from the 19th century theory of ether, which theosophists argued was not the real ether of Occult theory. Aether (primordial substance) is confused with this Astral Light by theorists learning the concepts, but ether is still of terrestrial matter, whereas Aether or Akasa is a spiritual agent. The Astral Light describes but the highest principle of the terrestrial atmosphere.
This real ether,
“…is one of the lower principles of what we call PRIMORDIAL SUBSTANCE (Akâsa, in Sanskrit), one of the dreams of old, and which has now become again the dream of modern science. It is the greatest, just as it is the boldest, of the surviving speculations of ancient philosophers. For the Occultists, however, both ETHER and the Primordial Substance are a reality. To put it plainly, ETHER is the Astral Light, and the Primordial Substance is AKÂSA…” (Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. 326)
This indicates a metaphysical property, a scientific, occult view of cosmology underlying mythology, making the charge that it is teaching “luciferian doctrine” ignorant and misplaced.
“Thus, the true and uncompromising Kabalists admit that, for all purposes of Science and philosophy, it is enough that the profane should know that the great magic agent called by the followers of the Marquis de St. Martin — the Martinists — astral light, by the mediaeval Kabalists and Alchemists the Sidereal Virgin and the Mysterium Magnum, and by the Eastern Occultists Aether (Space), the reflection of Akasa — is that which the Church calls Lucifer. That the Latin scholastics have succeeded in transforming the universal soul and Pleroma, the vehicle of Light and the receptacle of all the forms, a force spread throughout the whole Universe, with its direct and indirect effects, into Satan and his works, is no news to any one. But now they are prepared to give out to the above-mentioned profane even the secrets hinted at by Eliphas Levi without adequate explanation; for the latter’s policy of veiled revelations could only lead to further superstition and misunderstanding. What, indeed, can a student of Occultism, a beginner, gather from the following highly poetical sentences of Eliphas Levi, as apocalyptic as the writings of any of the Alchemists?
*Aether is another word for Akasa which means space or sky. Akasa is seen as the spiritual primordial substance that pervades the whole of space.
“Lucifer, the Astral Light . . . . is an intermediate force existing in all creation, it serves to create and to destroy, and the Fall of Adam was an erotic intoxication which has rendered his generation a slave to this fatal light . . . every sexual passion that overpowers our senses is a whirlwind of that light which seeks to drag us towards the abyss of death, Folly. Hallucinations, visions, ecstasies are all forms of a very dangerous excitation due to this interior phosphorus (?). Thus light, finally, is of the nature of fire, the intelligent use of which warms and vivifies, and the excess of which, on the contrary, dissolves and annihilates. Thus man is called upon to assume a sovereign empire over that (astral) light and conquer thereby his immortality, and is threatened at the same time with being intoxicated, absorbed, and eternally destroyed by it. This light, therefore, inasmuch as it is devouring, revengeful, and fatal, would thus really be hell-fire, the serpent of the legend; the tormented errors of which it is full, the tears and the gnashing of teeth of the abortive beings it devours, the phantom of life that escapes them, and seems to mock and insult their agony, all this would be the devil or Satan indeed.” (Histoire de la Magie, p. 197).
There is no wrong statement in all this; nothing save a superabundance of ill-applied metaphors, as in the application of Adam — a myth — to the illustration of the astral effects. Akasa — the astral light* — can be defined in a few words; it is the universal Soul, the Matrix of the Universe, the “Mysterium Magnum” from which all that exists is born by separation or differentiation. Itis the cause of existence; it fills all the infinite Space; is Space itself, in one sense, or both its Sixth and Seventh principles.* But as the finite in the Infinite, as regards manifestation, this light must have its shadowy side — as already remarked. And as the infinite can never be manifested, hence the finite world has to be satisfied with the shadow alone, which its actions draw upon humanity and which men attract and force to activity.
Hence, while it is the universal Cause in its unmanifested unity and infinity, the Astral light becomes, with regard to Mankind, simply the effects of the causes produced by men in their sinful lives. It is not its bright denizens — whether they are called Spirits of Light or Darkness — that produce Good or Evil, but mankind itself that determines the unavoidable action and reaction in the great magic agent. It is mankind which has become the “Serpent of Genesis,” and thus causes daily and hourly the Fall and sin of the “Celestial Virgin” — which thus becomes the Mother of gods and devils at one and the same time; for she is the ever-loving, beneficent deity to all those who stir her Soul and heart, instead of attracting to themselves her shadowy manifested essence, called by Eliphas Levi — “the fatal light” which kills and destroys. Humanity, in its units, can overpower and master its effects; but only by the holiness of their lives and by producing good causes.
It has power only on the manifested lower principles — the shadow of the Unknown and Incognizable Deity in Space. But in antiquity and reality, Lucifer, or Luciferus, is the name of the angelic Entity presiding over the light of truth as over the light of the day. In the great Valentinian gospel Pistis Sophia (§ 361) it is taught that of the three Powers emanating from the Holy names of the Three [[Tridunameis]], that of Sophia (the Holy Ghost according to these gnostics — the most cultured of all), resides in the planet Venus or Lucifer.” (The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2., pg. 511-512.)