In our modern era, no other occult symbol or drawing has caused so much controversy and misunderstanding as the mysterious goat-headed half-human hybrid known as Baphomet.
Laboring away in his studies in the suburbs of Paris, Eliphas Levi published his famous book on the occult sciences in 1854 called Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic). In this book, Levi revealed the secrets of a mysterious figure called “Baphomet”.
Some people believe that Baphomet is an image of Satan or the Devil. While others claim that it is simply a symbol of man’s animal and spiritual nature in which it contains the secret to enlightenment.
But what did Eliphas Levi truly mean when he created this mysterious figure?
In modern times, the image of Baphomet is one of the most famous esoteric images.
It is used by several occult organizations, but very little is known about its true context and its meaning remains largely obscure. Much of the confusion about its meaning can be related to the various interpretations and even propaganda published over the last two centuries by authors and esotericists.
Eliphas Levi was a French occultist and author. He was born under the legal name, Alphonse Louis Constant in Paris, France on October 28, 1810. As a young man he studied law at the Sorbonne University and served as an officer in the French army during the 1830s.
Levi was exposed to Freemasonry during this time and later became a Freemason himself. He also became interested in Spiritualism, joining the “Society of Psychical Research” in London, England in 1875.
Because of his associations and writings, he was eventually imprisoned for several months. After his release, he then devoted himself to magical and mystical studies, which culminated in the publication of his Magnus opus, Dogma and Ritual of High Magic.
To understand the original meaning of Baphomet, one has to examine this book. You will find that he explains in detail the true meaning of various dark esoteric enigmas such as Black Magic and what he thinks of the Devil and Satan in order to educate people about its dangers.
But Levi’s main focus in this book was by conveying what he called the tradition of “true religion” which he believed would be the final “synthesis of religion, science, and politics.”
The merging together of these various philosophies that have been opposing forces in society for many centuries up until modern times. As it relates to Baphomet, they are also inherent within humankind what is called “spiritualistic magnetism,” and mastering the balance of opposing forces.
That said, Baphomet was the symbolization of the equilibrium of energies within and outside the human body and mind.
One center of these opposing magnetizing forces comes from what Levi calls the “soul of the earth”, which could be equated with what religionists tell us literally is the Devil. The other force is a higher force associated with the “astral light.”
Man or women only become masters of themselves and their environment when they can properly harness and balance these energies. In other words, by being able to balance these forces, they become adepts in communion with the true creator or God.
I will go more in-depth on Levis teachings of magnetism, but first, it is important that I address the accusations made against Levi for being a Satanist and the figure of Baphomet representing Satan or the Devil.
Levi makes it clear in his book how he feels about the ideas of Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer.
He regarded the belief in Satan as nothing but “superstition.” (pg. 179) To Levi, this notion of Satan was not representative of dark forces, or Baphomet but human error (sin) and perversities. He wrote;
“Satan, as a superior personality and as force, does not exist. Satan is the personification of all errors, all perversities, and consequently also of all weaknesses.” (pg. 174)
In Levi’s opinion, the Devil was nothing but the malicious intentions of black magicians and their misled followers. Levi explains;
“The devil, in black magic, is the great magical agent employed for evil by a perverted will.” (pg. 175)
To Eliphas Levi, the practice of magic – either white or black – depends upon the ability of the adept to control the universal life force – that which again, he calls the great magical agent or astral light.”
Manly P. Hall wrote in his book, Dionysian Mysteries and Masonry that the image of Baphomet is NOT a Christian Devil but a symbol of the ancient alchemists representing Nature and natures God being a combination and balance of the forces, light and darkness;
“The Goat of Mendes or BAPHOMET whom the Templars were accused of worshipping is a Goat Headed deity, being formed of both male and female principles, with a Caduceus of Mercury in oplace of its Phallus.
One arm points up and one down , with the Latin ‘ Solve et Coagula’ written on them (meaning: ‘flow and ebb’)
This is NOT the image of a Christian Devil but a symbol of the ancient Alchemists representing Nature and natures God being a Combination & Balance of Male and Female forces, light and darkness, moisture and dryness.
The very principle of Hermes Trismegitus: As Above So Below” is what is symbolized by BAPHOMET…”
The name Baphomet is derived from Greek βαϕή baphe, βάπτω (“I dip”) “immersion” + Μῆτις, Metis “wisdom,” “skill,” or “craft.”
The meaning of Baphomet is “baptism” or initiation into wisdom.
In the book, “The mysteries of magic: a digest of the writings of Eliphas Lévi by Éliphas Lévi and Arthur Edward Waite, it explains the reason why this name was chosen.
“The Baphomets of the Templars, whose names should be spelt kabbalistically backward, is composed of three abbreviations—TEM OHP AB, Temple omnium hominum pads abbas, the father of the temple, universal peace of men. According to some, it was a monstrous head, according to others, a goat-shaped demon.
A sculptured casket unearthed in the ruins of an ancient commanday of the Templars was observed by antiquaries to be a baphometic figure, conformable in its attributes to our goat of Mendes and the androgyne of Khunrath. It is bearded, but with the entire body of a woman; in one hand it holds the sun, in the other the moon, joined to it by chains.
This virile head is a beautiful allegory which attributes to thought alone, the first and creative cause. The head here represents mind, and the female body matter. The stars, bound to the human form and directed by that nature of which intelligence is the head, have also a sublime significance.
The terrible Baphomet is, in fact, like all monstrous enigmas of ancient science, nothing more than an innocent and even pious hieroglyph.
Let us declare emphatically to combat the remnants of manichaeanism; that Satan, as a superior personality and power, has no existence.
THE DEVIL IN BLACK MAGIC IS THE GREAT MAGIC AGENT EMPLOYED FOR EVIL PURPOSES BY A PERVERSE WILL.”
In Dogma and Ritual of High Magic, Levi also clarifies that Lucifer is not Satan. He associates the fallen angel of the Bible with the concept of the Astral Light as it relates to his theory on magnetism. (pg. 178)
He explains that Lucifer and Satan came to symbolize the two opposing tendencies in human nature, which did not exist as independent forces but as positive or negative instrumentations of the Astral Light. (pg. 180)
Lucifer was depicted as the force of liberty and progress, while Satan stood for perversion and anarchy—this is the main reason why it is mistaken to identify the Baphomet with the inverted pentagram described in Rituel. (pg. 181)
Levi also addresses Baphomet and its association with the Knight Templar, who he maintained were Gnostics. They were the “torchbearers of the secret tradition of true Christianity, the “champions of humanity.” He said, “Thus the Templars became the torchbearers of the secret tradition of true Christianity, the “champions of humanity.” (pg. 28)
In “The Classics of the Kabbalah,” he claims that the true meaning of the Temple was “a social utopia and a symbol for the perfect government, based on an egalitarian hierarchy of intelligence and merit.” (pg. 29)
Levi clearly states who the enemies are of this revolutionary Gnosis of enlightenment. He believed that it would bring about the age of reason and the second coming of Christ. Levi wrote;
“the so-called orthodox sectarians who obstinately deny progress” and “claim authorities that they do not understand”:
“The ecclesiastical hierarchy is only temporary and must end when the time of the virility of humanity has come, the age of force and reason” which will bring “the second coming of Christ,” the explanation of all symbolical figures, and the erection of the Temple.” (pg. 30)
This is when Levi says, “Then the universal religion will finally be realized”:
But this purified religion will not be invented, it exists and it has always existed in humanity; but it had to be concealed by the sages, because the vulgar have been incapable of comprehending it. It is the tradition of all the great sanctuaries of antiquity, it is the philosophy of nature, it is God living in humanity and in the world, it is being demonstrated by being, it is reason proven by harmony, it is the analogy of the contraries, it is faith based on science and science elevated by faith.” (pg. 31)
Author, lawyer, and 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason, Albert Pike quoted Éliphas Lévi extensively in his own Masonic magnus opus, Morlas and Dogma. On the subject of Baphomet, Pike wrote;
“Hierogliphically to express this law of prudence, they gave their mercury, personified in Egypt as Hermanubis, a dog’s head; and to their Sulpher, represented by the Baphomet of the Temple, that goat’s head which brought into such disrepute the occult Mediaeval associations.”
“The Gnostics held that it composed the igneous body of the Holy Spirit; and it was adored in the secret rites of the Sabbat or the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the hermaphroditic goat of Mendes.” [Pike, op. cit., p. 734, teaching of the 28th Degree]
If one is to truly study Levi’s writings and not the opinions of others, one will understand that his intentions were to teach this ancient mystery tradition and clarify various magical teachings. One of the most important in what he describes as the “Great Work” is the eternal law of the opposing forces of nature in which the initiate is to strive to find an equilibrium between the two.
“This force was known to the ancients: it consists of a universal agent whose supreme law is equilibrium, and whose direction is concerned immediately with the great arcanum of transcendental magic. … This agent, which barely manifests itself under the trial and error of the disciples of Mesmer, is exactly what the adepts of the Middle Ages called the first matter of the great work.
The Gnostics represented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit, and it was the object of adoration in the secret rites of the Sabbath or the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the Androgynous Goat of Mendes.” (pg. 13)
It is important that you understand that Eliphas Levi believed that the doctrines of the Church have been both corrupted and lost.
In the preface of his book, he explains the iconography of the various aspects and symbology that can be found in the figure of Baphomet. Levi wrote;
“The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of Hermeticism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah.
This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice.
His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol.
The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it.
The ugly beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes.
The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.” [3. Eliphas Levi, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie]
The first connection of Baphpmet to modern Satanism arrives when the Brittish occultist and spy, Aleister Crowley adopted the symbol for the religion he invented called Thelema and his so-called Gnostic Mass. In addition, Satanic organizations like the Church of Satan and Satanic Temple have reappropriated and corrupted Baphomet for their own use and marketing purposes.
For example, Anton Szandor LaVey’s Church of Satan adopted the symbol in 1966. The Church of Satan’s current High Priest, Peter H. Gilmore even claims it was his organization that made the “Sigil of Baphomet” to be associated with Satanism and popular among Satanists.
In researching Eliphas Levi’s books, it appears that his main objective was to bring back what he called the “traditional and original Christian religion”, which he associated with the Ancient Gnostics and the Knight Templar who he said were the official “torchbearers” of this secret Gnosis. It is important that you understand this history because among the Freemasons, Templars, and other occultists, Baphomet was not associated with Satanism until our modern era.
How did this happen?
You will find that a common theme in Satanism is to sometimes alter or corrupt Christian symbols and other art and create what they for example Peter Gilmore of the Church of Satan says in his own words, “blasphemous parodies.” For example, the upside down cross and also the original pentagram on Baphomet’s head by Levi they invert to create what is called the “inverted pentagram,” which “changes its original meaning.”
Here is a quote from Peter H. Gilmore on the Church of Satan on their own website stating these facts:
“Examine the literature and imagery predating the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966: Satanism is usually denoted by inverted crosses or crucifixes and blasphemous parodies of Christian art. There are also images of goats and devils, and demons—along with their sigils from grimoires—all used to represent the “satanic.” However, the complete graphic which we now call the “Sigil of Baphomet” only became associated as the foremost symbol of Satanism in the public and media consciousness after the founding of the Church of Satan and Dr. LaVey’s use of it.
From its inception, the Church of Satan has been constantly spotlighted in print, film, and television media all over the globe, so this was to be expected. The word “Baphomet” dates back to records of Templar trials, and there are ongoing discussions concerning its derivation and meaning. However, there is no clear evidence that the symbol which we in the Church of Satan call “Baphomet” is similarly derived; the evidence, if any, has not yet been released in any public forum.”
Then you have other organizations like the Satanic Temple who not only use the Satanic version of Baphomet for their own marketing purposes, they create statues and controversy all around the world with their devilish antics. Further muddying the truth and cementing in people’s minds that the symbol of Baphomet is purely Satanic.
As I have explained and from Eliphas Levi’s own writings, you can clearly see that his intentions were not to represent Baphomet with the Devil or Satanism.
It was simply a drawing representing human nature, balance, and equilibrium of the astral light.
He believed that it was by the manipulation of this fluidic essence, that the phenomena of transcendental magic were produced, which were the secrets of magnetism.
This was the supreme arcanum of human existence.
To master it was to become a co-creator with God.
For Eliphas Levi, Baphomet is the iconic representation of the “true religion”, which were the revolutionary doctrines of Gnosis going back to the “Gnostics.” A time where he believed there was a battle between the “true” and “false” religion in which the false doctrines had usurped the true doctrines of the Gnostics.
Levi wrote in “The Kabbalistic Origins of Christianity” that the Kabbalah was the core doctrine of real Christianity, which contained the true teachings of the “universal tradition” that opposed the corrupted doctrine of the established Churches.
During the time of Saint Paul, there was a schism among the Gnostics between the traditional religion and the new initiated by St. Paul’s burning of the books of Hermes and Pythagoras. For Levi, this was needed in order to forge a new synthesis “in the name of the original and traditional dogma against the despotic and ignorant interpretations of the degenerated priesthood.”
By doing so, Paul walked in the steps of the “pacifistic revolutionary” Jesus Christ, who he believed to be a successor to Osiris, Orpheus, Moses “and all great men of enlightenment.”
This traditional religion and honoring the chain of wise initiates was broken when the philosophical battle took place between Paul and John. Lévi sided with the teaching of Saint John who he said was initiated by Jesus and wrote his Apocalypse in the “hieroglyphic language” handed down to him.
A meaning which was lost by “the official Roman Church.”
This paved the way for “Catholic absolutism” with the followers of the Church being misled to attack the Gnostics: “From the burning of books they came to the burning of their authors.”
Meanwhile, Levi said that true Christianity, the original Gnosis of the Ancients was preserved by various secret sects such as the Templars and Freemasons.
He believed that the ultimate goal of preserving these teachings was for “the realization of the divine ideal in humanity.”
For Levi, he was a warrior for God whose sole task was to bring Light to the only true Tradition with the ultimate goal of establishing a perfect social order ruled by the wise.
– Moe Bedard
- Eliphas Levi – Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Dogma and Ritual of High Magic)
- Many P. Hall – Dionysian Mysteries and Masonry
- Éliphas Lévi and Arthur Edward Waite – The mysteries of magic: a digest of the writings of Eliphas Lévi
- Albert Pike – Morals and Dogma
- Church of Satan – The History of the Origin of the Sigil of Baphomet and its Use in the Church of Satan
- Eliphas Levi – The Kabbalistic Origins of Christianity
Moe is the founder of GnosticWarrior.com. He is a father, husband, author, martial arts black belt, and an expert in Gnosticism, the occult, and esotericism.