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Comte de Gabalis [1913], at

p. x


Across the title page of the first edition of Comte de Gabalis, published at Paris in the year 1670, runs the cryptic phrase from Tertullian "Quod tanto impendio absconditur etiam solummodo demonstrare destruere est," [ When a thing is hidden away with so much pains merely to reveal it is to destroy it,] suggesting to the mind that there is a concealed mystery. Hungry souls, heeding these words, have sought and found beneath the esprit and sparkle of its pages a clue to that truth which all the world is seeking.

Many readers will recall Sir Edward Lytton's citation of Comte de Gabalis in his strange novel Zanoni, certain portions of which were based upon this source. And others will remember the high esteem in which the wit and wisdom of the Abbé de Villars' masterpiece were held by litterateurs, as well as occultists, in the early years of the 18th century. Alexander Pope, in his dedication to the Rape of the Lock, the first draft of which was written in 1711, says "The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book call’d

p. xi

[paragraph continues] Le Comte de Gabalis, which both in its title and size is so like a Novel, that many of the Fair Sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these Gentlemen, the four Elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes or Demons of Earth delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the Air, are the best-condition’d Creatures imaginable. For they say, any mortals may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle Spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true Adepts, an inviolate preservation of Chastity."

Alexander Pope's poem bears the same relation to its inspiration Comte de Gabalis, that a dancing mote does to the sunbeam whose brilliance it reflects. For the reader of to-day this light shines, as it were, through a window fashioned in an alien age, and mullioned with a frankness of speech almost unknown in this century of conventional circumlocutions. To throw a stone at the window were ungrateful. Rather let the reader view these Discourses with sympathetic understanding of the thought of the period in which they were written. Let him regard not their letter but their word, and so justify our belief that years are past in which to point out spiritual worth wherever found is to compass its destruction, and that the day has come when we should seek to unlock the treasure of this ancient volume with a key fashioned from the Philosopher's Stone.

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