by Christopher McIntosh
"This classic study of the French magician Eliphas Levi and the occult revival in France is at last available again after being out of print and highly sought after for many years. Its central focus is Levi himself (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 Levi, for example, 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 strongly influenced by him, and Aleister Crowley even believed himself to be Levi's reincarnation. The book is not only about Levi, however, but also covers the era of which he was a part and the remarkable figures who preceded and followed him - the esoteric Freemasons and Illuminati of the late 18th century, and later figures such as the Rosicrucian magus Josephin Peladan, the occultist Papus (Gerard Encausse), the Counter-Pope Eugene Vintras, and the writer J.-K. 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 and which are gaining increasing attention in the academy. Christopher McIntosh's vivid account of this richly fascinating era in the history of occultism remains as fresh and compelling as ever."