Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oberon - the Faery King


We hear a lot about faery queens and in a number of popular illustrated books and meditational cards scantily clad maidens with wings feature widely. And I have to say that my own experience of the faery worlds has largely been dominated by the female of the species, witness my recent work The Book of the Faery Melusine of Lusignan in Legend, History and Romance (Skylight Press 2013). There seems on the other hand to have been little attention paid to gentlemen faeries, of whom the most prominent is likely to be Oberon, the faery king, who features in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, creating quite a bit of mayhem amongst the human and faery lovers. However, William Shakespeare is a bit of a “Johnny come lately” in terms of Oberon as we find lore about the faery king featuring some three hundred years before in a 13th century romance in Old French, Huon de Bordeaux and its prologue Le Roman d’Auberon.

            Huon of Bordeaux was a very engaging adventurous knight who got the wrong side of the Emperor Charlemagne and was sent off on an almost impossible quest to the Saracen world in which he would almost certainly have come to grief had it not been for the intervention of Oberon and his magical powers. These powers were connected to a number of magical objects that the faery king possessed that included a horn, a hanap (a kind of large goblet with handles), and a hauberk (a suit of chain mail).

            The magic horn, of ivory bound with strips of gold, made by some mysterious faeries who lived on an island, had previously been the property of Morgan le Fay. Its main power was that it could be heard all round the world by followers of its owner, who could thus summon them instantly to his aid. But it also had other powers such as restoring to health or to grace any sick or sinful who heard it;  bringing food or drink to its owner if he was in dire need of them, and could sound so joyful that it compelled those who heard it to sing or dance. On the other hand,  by touching it with his finger Oberon could call up an almighty storm.

            The hanap or goblet, which had belonged to Brunehaut, Oberon’s faery grandmother, was the source of an infinite supply of wine. It was thus very handy at feasts, as a source of entertainment as well as drink, but also had the power to reveal whether whoever drank from it was in a state of innocence or guilt – a power that one or two of Morgan le Fay’s artefacts also had.

            The marvellous hauberk or suit of chain mail, was pure white in colour, extremely light, would fit perfectly whoever wore it, and was impervious to blows or to fire. Thus it made its wearer virtually invincible, very useful for fighting giants and which also had the power to frighten off a particularly venomous serpent that dwelt in a fountain.

            These objects and powers feature appropriately in the adventures of Huon of Bordeaux but it is also possible to see hints within them that point to more than magical weapons for errant knights. They share mystical elements that are not far off association with the Grail legends. All of which leads to interesting speculation about the faery element in these as suggested by Wendy Berg in Red Tree, White Tree (Skylight Press, 2010). It is also implied by the high moral tone of the faery king in his dealings with Huon of Bordeaux, and the severity with which he meets any falling short by his rather blundering human friend. Indeed he threatens, and later actually does, withdraw help and contact from him when Huon  disobeys his instructions.

The first instance is when Huon, having been lent the horn with instructions only to use it in time of great need, blows it to find out if it works. Oberon, who instantly responds to the call with a mighty army of faery warriors is not best pleased to find that he has been called in vain.

And later, when Huon has made off with the fair Saracen maiden Esclarmond in order to marry her, Oberon forbids carnal intercourse before the ceremony. Needless to say Huon anticipates the event and as a result the couple are shipwrecked and parted in quite distressing circumstances, and although all comes right in the end, it is a salutary lesson that when faeries lay down conditions they really mean them, and can be particularly unforgiving when it comes to human duplicity.

            However, forgiveness for human errors is not beyond the faery king, and in a final scene where Huon is beset by traitors and about to be hanged Oberon intervenes and sets everything to rights at the last minute.

            So much for the romance of Huon of Bordeaux. We learn more about Oberon in its prequel Le Roman d’Auberon that seems to have been written soon after by a trouvère who sought to give more information about what had proved to be a very popular character in the main tale.

            Here we need to make a necessary adjustment in terms of what is to be taken literally and what is to be taken symbolically – for in giving details of Oberon’s family, historical characters and events are introduced that are widely anachronistic. The first being that Oberon’s father was Julius Caesar and his mother Morgan le Fay, and that he had a twin brother known to us as St. George!

It should be obvious that what the trouvère is trying to tell us is that the character of Oberon is based upon the combination of the most successful of Roman warriors and statesmen, and the most magically powerful of characters in Arthurian legend, and is on a par with a most popular warrior saint in the Christian and indeed Muslim calendar.

            With this in mind we are taken back yet further into faery mythology which sees Oberon’s great grandfather as the late Old Testament hero Judas Maccabeus. In an event that is not recorded in the Bible Judas Maccabeus is forced to defend himself against a rival king, Bandifort, whom he defeats, slays and whose daughter he marries, from which union a daughter is born, called Brunehaut. As was the custom, to be found in much folk lore, the cradle of the new born child was attended by faeries who bestowed gifts or sometimes curses on the child, (parallels of the three Norns or Fates of ancient Greece who ruled over human destinies).

            On this occasion one of the faeries predicted that at seven years of age Brunehaut would be taken to live in the kingdom of Faery. And so it happens that on Christmas Day seven years later, when the court is at table, a great deer enters, seizes Brunehaut and carries her off.  And Brunehaut rules in Faeryland until such time as the Roman emperor Césaire, (obviously fictional at a time when Rome was still a republic – but intended to represent the most powerful man in the world), comes to Faeryland to seek the hand of Brunehaut. From their marriage Julius Caesar is born, who when he grows up (having been trained and educated by his grandfather Judas Maccabeus) is given the marvellous hauberk by Brunehaut to help him fight a giant that is devastating middle Europe. Julius Caesar wins and at a great ceremony in the faery stronghold of Dunostre, to which the court of King Arthur is invited, Julius is married to Morgan le Fay. And in turn from this marriage, the twins George, the future Christian saint, and Oberon, the future faery king, are born.

            This farrago of miscellaneous fact, fiction and legend may well tempt us to dismiss the whole thing as the ramblings of an overheated imagination on the part of some medieval story teller. However, as we have said before, these are but images upon a painted curtain that, going beyond, may reveal a very potent inner reality, particularly if we think in terms of forces rather than forms. In a way it might well be compared with modern approaches to and speculations about “the Masters”. Are the forms they assume to be taken at face value – or are they channels for inner (be it mystical or magical) centres of power and intelligence?

            If the latter, then may we take the figure of Oberon, the King of Faery, as a form constructed for our convenience and understanding to act as a channel for much needed understanding of some of the inner dynamics of the world in which we live?  This seems to be the case with a number of faery figures, and a number of others that  seem to cross the boundary between the human and faery worlds. Such as Lancelot, Guenevere, Morgan, Melusine, Fiona Macleod, Tam Lin, Robert Kirk, and so on and so forth. The boundaries between the worlds are not short of guides or suggested pathways.

           

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dion Fortune and Glastonbury Tor


If Joseph of Arimathea set his sights on Glastonbury Tor to identify the final goal of his long journey from Jerusalem, for Dion Fortune it was above all a focus of elemental power and inspiration. Upon its slopes she built her home, a guest house, and a sanctuary.

As she saw it, it was a Hill of Vision for anyone whose eyes have the least inclination to open upon another world. And she describes, in Glastonbury, Avalon of the Heart, how, on many occasions, the tower is reported to have been seen rimmed in light. And she tells how a warm glow, as of a furnace, may beat up from the ground on wild winter knights; or the sound of chanting be heard from the depths of the hill; or towering forms of shadow and light seen to be moving among the ancient thorn-trees that clothe the lower slopes.

            But wonderful though the view from the Tor might be by day for the many pilgrims and tourists who climb it, far more wonderful, she says, is the sight by night for those who dare to climb it in the dark. Or most wonderful of all, perhaps, to climb the Tor at sunset and watch the sun go down over the far Atlantic, when from the Tor one may see two sunsets – the sun himself in its glory in the west, and its reflection upon the clouds in the eastern sky.

Whilst to see the moon rising through the rose-pink glow of low clouds over the darkening marshes is a thing she found never to be forgotten. As the lights came on in the town at the foot of the hill, at any rate in her day, they were seen to form a five-pointed star, for there are five roads out of Avalon – to Wells, Meare, Street, Butleigh, and Shepton Mallet – and the houses, following along these roads form a perfect star of light about the Tor with its tower.

            But there is one time above all others when it is well to ascend the Tor at nightfall, and that is at the full moon of the autumnal equinox, round about the Mass of St Michael. The nights are coming cold then, but the days are still warm with the afterglow of summer, and the cold of the darkness, chilling the warm breath of the meadows, causes a thick but shallow mist to form over the levels.

Through this the cattle wade knee-deep as in water, and trees cast shadows in the moonlight, black upon silver. As the night closes in, the mist deepens. Like a rising tide in an estuary it fills the hollows. Trees and barns slowly drown. Only the few scattered knolls like St Bride`s Beckary remain as islands in the white gloom. Gradually they too fade as the mist thickens, and Avalon is an island again.

            Local folk call this shallow mist that lies upon the levels “the Lake of Wonder”. And then perhaps to the eyes of vision may be seen coming slowly, a black barge, rowed by a dumb man, bearing the three weeping queens who bring Arthur, wounded unto death at Lyonesse, that he may heal him of his grievous wound in the green coombs among the apple trees.

            Into this Lake of Wonder Sir Bedivere flung the magic sword Excalibur, graven with strange runes in an unknown tongue. And the white arm of a Lady of the Lake, rising from the rushes, seized it to draw it under. And we may recall that Excalibur, was a gift to the human Arthur from the world of Faery, and to the world of Faery it was in due time returned.

But what of the other hallows of the Graal, the spear, the cup, the stone, or the cruets of white and red? Great mystery surrounds their origin as well as their fate. If we read the earliest Graal stories, we find there is much to suggest that the Graal itself had a faery origin. Was the rich Fisher King in his boat upon the waters, who directed Percival to the mysterious castle that was at first invisible to the eye, one of the Faery kind?

            In later legend the Graal winners took a strange boat, called the Ship of Solomon, in which they took the Graal to Sarras, which seems an inner aspect of the Holy Land just as Logres is an inner level of Albion. What was the mission of Joseph of Arimathea in all of this? Is the belief that he was bringing back the Graal to Avalon, a realisation that the Hallows were about to be returned to their faery origins? (cf. Red Tree, White Tree by Wendy Berg.)

            All these speculations, and many more, may come to us when, in Dion Fortune`s words, the Lake of Wonder rises from its faery springs under the Hunter`s Moon.

But, there are also visions of a different kind that can be seen from the height of the Tor by day; one of which Dion Fortune had witnessed twice and says is a sight never to be forgotten.

In the ordinary heat of day, she recalls, there are times when there falls upon the Glastonbury levels what is known locally as “the Blight”. A strange heaviness that will not turn to thunder is in the summer air. The sun glows dully like a copper disk through the low lying clouds, and in the oppressive dimness and heat, nerves are on edge with restlessness and uneasiness.

            On one such occasion, driven desperate by the oppressiveness of the levels, she and her companions set out to climb the Tor. Up and up through densest mist they climbed, moving in a sphere some ten feet in diameter, shut in by a white wall impenetrable as stone – until they reached the very summit. And there, from a white blindness, they came out of the mist as suddenly as a train runs out of a tunnel. For the crest of the Tor was above the cloud line.

The sky was of that deep indigo blue often seen at Avalon – a blue that should be seen through the boughs of an apple tree in blossom. From marge to marge no cloud flecked its depths, but below their feet there stretched to the very horizon a rolling, billowing sea of purest white, with purple in the hollows. While above their heads was the tower, its shadow flung far out over the cloudy floor. It was as if the world had sunk in the sea and they were the last of mankind. No sound rose through the mist, no bird circled above. There was nothing but blue sky, grey tower, billowing mist and blazing sun.

Physical though this vision might have been, and possibly because of this, I think this simple image is as important as any of the visions of the legendary tales. It is an image of the elemental powers as they exist at their most direct and most obvious way. Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The Air of the inverted bowl of the blue sky above. The Earth of the stone of the tower below, its foundations in the earth. The Water heaving and billowing within the mist all about. And the Fire of the great Day Star shining on all from above.

It provides the foundation for a fundamentally important symbolic structure to link between the Powers of the Above and with the Powers of the Below. The Power within the Heavens and the Power within the Land. The Heavenly Light with the Earth Light. The Overworld with the Underworld.

If you are familiar with the structure of the Tree of Life,  you may like to experiment with it.

            As you stand in vision upon the summit of the Tor realise that you are standing on the sphere of the Kingdom of Earth, Malkuth.  The Sun that shines above you is a source of life and light from Tiphareth. About it in the inner airs are the planetary powers, and far beyond, although rendered invisible in the effulgence of light, you know there is the Supernal Kingdom of the Stars. In which at the Kether point we might envisage Polaris, encircled by Arthur`s Wain, or the Great Bear, itself within the constellation of the Little Bear, which in another form of reckoning is also part of Draco, forming a wing of the Dragon – and hence the link of King Arthur and the Pendragonship.

But this is only half the picture. For beneath our feet is another Tree of Life, a reflection of that which rises above. It goes down into the sacred Earth. The Sea of Mist that extends immediately below and around us is a form of Yesod, the Foundation. And in the levels of the inner Earth beyond is the radiant glow of the Volcanic Fire of the very heart of Gaea,  counterpart to the Sun in Tiphareth above. The planetary powers that surround that interior Sun being the alchemical powers of the metals and sacred elements.

And if we extend our vision beyond these powers we may become aware of what have been called the Stars within the Earth. And I suggest that their configuration may not be too far different from those of the southern celestial sky, in which is contained the wondrous ship of the Argonauts in their quest of the Golden Fleece, of Ara the great light house dedicated to Isis, and the constellation of the Centaur, the great teacher and healer, whose brightest star is Alpha Centauri, one of the closest to Earth, and which, esoterically speaking, has been said, in Dion Fortune`s Cosmic Doctrine to indicate the way to the Central Stillness of the Cosmos. That place where all began, and to which all will in, or out of time, return.

So much for these visions of the above and the below and this great vertical polarity. But there is also a horizontal polarity that must not be forgotten. That is to say, of a great network of power and light that goes, not only round, but through the globe of the Earth itself.

It links up with many other centres, but one in particular it seems to me should predominantly concern us. Dion Fortune has called Glastonbury “England`s Jerusalem”, and William Blake was not far off this realisation too. Which inevitably calls to mind another great Avalonian of our times, Ronald Heaver, who made his home near Glastonbury. And who, in the 1930`s, was instrumental in preserving the Garden of Joseph of Arimathea in Jerusalem, about the site of the Holy Sepulchre.  (cf. The Hidden Adept & the Inward Vision, by R.J.Stewart). He regarded this as a key location not merely for religious belief, but of planetary energies that would play a major role in the future.

In the early 1970`s he was advising that the spiritual energies of Jerusalem could be harmonised only through re-connection to other sites in other parts of the world. We have become familiar with the physical existence of tectonic plates, which cause stresses within the planetary surface. Much the same would appear to be the case on the inner side of Earth.

That is to say, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, and traditionally regarded by the ancient world as the centre of the Earth, Jerusalem lies on a confluence of major fault lines in the spiritual body of the planet, which has often been cited as the underlying cause of the many centuries of conflict in that area. These conflicting telluric or Underworld forces manifest through human strife. This is something we need, it seems, to bear in mind, in our sacromagical work. For by working with the spiritual forces of the UnderWorld and OverWorld conjoined, we may transform the elements, and ease the pressures of the interior fault lines, first within ourselves and then beyond. This seems to me true Alchemy as it should be expressed in the 21st century.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Talking Tree by W.G.Gray


Although, over the past fifty years, I may have built up something of a reputation as a writer and teacher in the Western Esoteric Tradition I feel as proud of my record as a publisher and talent spotter. On this side of things a prominent jewel in my crown must, I think, go to my discovery of W.G.Gray back in the 1960’s and scrounging the money to publish his first important books The Ladder of Lights and Magical Ritual Methods. Each in their way beacons and milestones in teaching basic principles that are often taken for granted these days, not realising how much is owed to the pioneering insights of W.G.Gray.

He went on to write many more books, their hallmark being a combination of deep roots in tradition and insistence on going back to first principles. One of the most important and outstanding examples of this combination is to be found in The Talking Tree which is a detailed survey of the Tree of Life and the experience and significance of the 22 Paths that connect the 10 Sephiroth in all Four Worlds of the Qabalists, now just re-issued by Skylight Press. 

He had some difficulty in getting this published at first owing to the fact that it appeared too original. Actually it is deeply traditional but what scared the commissioning editors and their accountants was the fact that he was not using ‘traditional’ allocations of Tarot Trumps or Hebrew letters to the Paths.  By which they meant those favoured by the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn back in 1888.

The savants of the Golden Dawn chose to deal out the Trumps to the Paths pretty well in direct numerical sequence although as later scholarship has revealed, the original Trumps were not numbered, and when they were, sequences differed. The sequence we use today is simply that chosen by the backroom boys of a commercially successful Tarot card manufacturer in 18th century Marseilles. I have glossed all this in the first chapter of my book Tarot & Magic for those who might care to follow it up.

The Tarot happens to be an excellent mystery system in itself that is quite capable of interpretation without recourse to the Tree of Life, even though it can act as a very useful adjunct to the Tree. And this is what the Golden Dawn teachers sought to do, but they simply presented neophytes with their idea of what should go where, “take it or leave it!”, without very much, if any, attempt to say why. And most of us did take it and it never did us any harm. In fact I have used and continue to use the Golden Dawn system and found it satisfactory and illuminating in every way. But that does not mean that it is the “one and only true”.   

Yet, as one serious student rather nervously put it to me, on being confronted with  W.G.Gray’s correspondences in The Talking Tree – “Will it work?”.  To which the confidant answer can be made “Yes, it will!” I can say that with full confidence on account of having tried it myself, and also upon the evidence of the work of R J Stewart, who like myself was a student of W.G.Gray for a time, and whose books Living Magical Arts, The Merlin Tarot, and The Dreampower Tarot and The Miracle Tree use the same allocations as Gray with impressive verve and originality. In fact this last is in my view one of the best introductions to the Qabalah ever – brief, to the point, and eminently practical.

But we would be very wrong indeed if we regarded Gray’s Tree of Life correspondences to be just some maverick version lumped upon the student, in accustomed “take it or leave it” way. Where William Gray is important in esoteric literature is that he goes back to first principles and tells you how and why he arrives at his allocations. Nor does he claim that they are the “one and only true”. As he specifically states early on: “Anyone is of course entitled to place Tarot Cards anywhere on the Tree of Life he likes - providing there are as good or better reasons than these for doing so.”

So there is a challenge my hearties! For whatever system they may come up with, anyone who undertakes training in these fundamental tenets will indeed have a good chance of coming up with “the one and only true” for themselves. Not only that, they are likely to be far better versed in the principles of the Tree of Life than any who came up through the less challenging way of consuming a pre-packaged product.

I am reminded of a recent Skylight Press title, Garden Alchemy: The Lost Art of Potato Breeding. Time was when our ancestors created their own vegetable varieties in their gardens to suit themselves and took it for granted as a completely normal thing to do. Until the supermarket age reduced all this diversity down to a handful of bland varieties convenient for retailing. Much the same applies to the Garden of the Mysteries.

Whether we are beginners or old hands, there is an immense amount to be learned from W.G.Gray’s approach, not only to the Tarot but the other elements in Tree of Life correspondences, be they angelic, alphabetical or elemental. But let him speak for himself about that:

There are two principal ways of reaching Wisdom. One is presenting it in ready-made form to the uninstructed and unprepared, then expecting them to adapt themselves to it by whatever means are available. This works, but not without considerable trouble and difficulty. The other way is not to reveal Wisdom directly, but to offer a practicable means for individuals to find it by their own efforts in their own time. Such is really the difference between Outer and Inner Schools of thought.

With Exoteric systems, prepared information is pushed at the pupils in a definite pattern rather like programming a computer. Their education consists of their individual and collective reactions to those stimuli. With Esoteric Systems, no empiric teaching is thrust upon the students at all, but their natural abilities for intuitive learning and experience are fostered by every possible means, and they are provided with self-instructional devices for arriving at the required ultimates by exercising their own Wills in those directions.

This is the Qabalistic Way. It obviously applies only to those souls willing to proceed along its Paths of their own accord. Others automatically rule themselves out.

So we have been warned. Let us not rule ourselves out. It is never too early or too  late to take up the truly esoteric way!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Geordie's War - by Alan Richardson



There are many of us over the past few years, within and without the Society of the Inner Light, who have felt the need to do something about what used to be called “the Last War” by those who fought in it, assuming it would be the last one in the history of western civilisation. Although they were soon disillusioned  and when war broke out again some twenty years later, “Last” came to mean, not “Final”,  but “the one before this one!”  

The reasons for our esoteric engagement in Remembrance Day celebrations was the realisation that there was much still unresolved in inner plane terms with regard to many who had been killed, many unidentified, many completely blown to bits,  psychologically maimed even after death, and still hanging around the battlefields.  This came with the realisation of the existence of an inner plane group known as the Company of the Light of the Somme with whom we could work in order to bring release to those who were still in a state of shock.

It resulted in some of us making the trip over to the old Western Front to feel something of this at first hand, as Alan Richardson has done, although this is not completely necessary as rituals could be effectively worked at home. One such is that of ‘The Chapels of Remembrance’ a script of which has been published in the latest edition of The Abbey Papers, [Skylight Press] and with a more detailed description of its initial working in An Introduction to Ritual Magic [Thoth Publications] with both of which the SIL has been closely associated.  And when such work was at its height, the performance of a play This Wretched Splendour [Skylight Press] largely inspired by one of the inner plane adepti  who fought in the conflict.

Alan Richardson, a contributor to the Inner Light Journal and biographer of Dion Fortune, has now obviously received a call to do his bit with this latest book. To my mind it is probably his best and certainly his most moving.  As ‘Sting’ remarks in a foreword “Under the deceptively simple prose and conversational tone, Richardson crafts another level of insight which shows how the Somme Offensive resonated within his own soul a century later. Tensions were passed down from his war hero grandfather, through his father, and into his own childhood, thus family conflicts became almost analogues of the Great War itself. ...The book is never less than informative, with unexpected insights. At times it is extremely funny.”

So with eyes to see and ears to hear, not only is this an entertaining, informative and thought provoking read, it  is an important book for anyone with any esoteric sense who seeks some background to any inner work connected with war and the fall out from it, in this world or the next.

Published by Skylight Press, ISBN 978-1-908011-74-9 176pp. £11.99  $18.99

Monday, December 30, 2013

THE ARCH OF HEAVEN


First bright spark in my new year comes in the form of a little book by R J Stewart entitled The Arch of Heaven.  The subject of the book and its contents will not be unfamiliar to anyone who has worked with RJS over the years,  who has read his books The Underworld Initiation or Living Magical Arts,  where they are quoted, or indeed  has attended any of his workshops, or worked with him in a magical capacity. It concerns that most evocative of openings to any transcendental work   that begins:

In the Name of the Son of Light – The Son of Maria – Foster-son of Brighd in Avalon – Keystone of the Arch of Heaven – Who joins as One the Forks upholding of the Sky.....

And concludes with:

.....Do you see us here – Oh Son of Light? – Says the Son of Light: “I See!”

There are many of us who can vouch for the evocative power of these lines to the point that – imitation being the sincerest form of flattery – a number of us have used them within our own workings on various occasions.  What this little book does is to give a run down on how these evocative lines came about, and to what use this opening can be put in the wider field of esoteric working.

As a prayer  it provides a simple and effective means for liberating those who are trapped after physical death, and may be unable or unwilling to move on. It also offers a method of attuning a location, typically a room or a house (room by room). It can be recited aloud from the printed page, although is best learned by heart.

As a meditative practice, undertaken daily, it provides the means of attuning to deep spiritual forces and consciousness of liberation, redemption, beauty and harmony.  It gently brings us into balance not only in our consciousness but simultaneously within our bodies.

As a ceremony, it can enable a group or an individual to consciously attune a dedicated or chosen space to compassionate spiritual forces.

Many of us had assumed The Arch of Heaven to be of ancient Celtic provenance, it certainly has that feel to it, along with the unique ability to be at one with those of a Christian or a pagan religious persuasion, and it  is thus usable in a variety of circumstances and with mixed groups.  However, its origins are far from what anyone might have expected, as is revealed in the first part of the book, describing the origin of the verses and their content.  Quite an instructive little ghost story in itself!

The second part of the book describes various ways of working with it and, to my mind, includes some very perceptive and relevant remarks and guidelines on the dynamics of inner plane contact and those assumed to be communicating from there. A lot of this ought to be compulsory reading for a whole host of those who aspire to or who claim to be working along these lines.

As R J Stewart says in his Introduction – “It has taken more than thirty-five years to write this book. Rather than being solely a development of text, it has been a deep current within my life, and in more recent years within the lives of others trained to work with The Arch of Heaven. As the main text affirms, you can use the verses beneficially in many ways without the special training that such deeper levels require. Anyone can open The Arch of Heaven when spiritual aid is truly necessary; please read on to discover why and how, and what happens when you do so.”

Amen to that!  This is certainly a little gem of a book – indeed a potential classic – that deserves a place on anybody’s bookshelf of even handbag or back pocket!

Published by R.J.Stewart Books, printed in USA and UK, contact www.rjstewart.net

ISBN 978-0-9856006-1-7 $14.95  £10.00

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christ and Qabalah



December 23, 2013 by PeregrinWildoak on his blog magicoftheordinary. Happy Christmas everyone!

I was lucky enough to read the main subject of this book, the late Rev. Anthony Duncan, way back in the day, when I first started out on this esoteric caper – in fact before I read any Gareth Knight. This was due to the local Theosophical Society Library holding a copy of his The Christ, Psychotherapy and Magic. Even though I was immersed in and espousing my newly adopted Pagan ‘faith’, the book touched me deeply and I daresay held me fast during many years of theological speculation and confusion.

Far from being an ordinary village or city Anglican vicar, the Rev. Duncan was also a mystic of great depth, a lover of faeries, a part-time ghost-buster, a natural psychic and a wonderful exponent of the esoteric truths behind Christianity. The Church of England occasionally throws up such a soul, but rarely do they flourish within and outside the bounds of the Church as Rev. Duncan did.

On the outer reaches of the Church one only has to look at his classic The Elements of Celtic Christianity which had wide appeal back in the 90s, even to a Perth Pagan audience :)Within the church one can look at his long career as a parish priest, the respect he garnered and one or two more ‘out there’ moments. Take for example, his authorship of the clergy-only document The Psychic Disturbance of Places describing a rationale for psychic disruptions of places, ghosts and place memories and how a priest may assist in their resolution (which somehow made it past the church’s Doctrine Commission).

Christ & Qabalah, by the respected elder of English Magic, Gareth Knight, traces the meeting and esoteric interaction of ideas and works between himself and Rev Duncan. One can imagine that two innovators within their respective spiritual fields would have much to say to one another, much to spark off each other and much to gain from each other’s depth. Without being unduly intimate, Gareth Knight’s sharing of correspondence, diary entries and poems allows the reader to enter a wonderful and intensely personal relationship. As he describes, even though the two lived in the same town for only a short time as young men, afterwards they were ‘seldom out of each other’s heads’.

Knight recounts their relationship in a largely chronological manner, allowing the development of ideas and works, the refinement of beliefs and practices of each other to be clearly shown. This book is far more than a simple sketch of the life of Rev. Duncan; Knight draws out, places in context and shows how each influenced the other and the ramifications of their work for the greater esoteric and ‘post-Church’ worlds. His writing, as always, is clear, engaging and attractive, here with the addition of personal elements and anecdotes, as the author is quite happy to present the differences between himself and Rev. Duncan when they arose.

The great strength of the book is the snapshot into the diversity and depth of the work of Rev. Duncan, and also (when he elaborates on it) the work of Gareth Knight. Duncan is revealed as a man of great depth and mystic awareness, a (literally) inspired writer and proficient poet.

Myself (of which I make so great

a fuss) is a mere, brittle spike

of consciousness on the circumference of being;

a tiny terminal of unplumbed depth. (‘ME’, p.7)

and

Our being falls towards this point

Where all the lines converge” (‘NIRVANA POINT’, p.35)

Or in a more elemental mood:

Sprits of wood and water, stone and field,

whom my sophistication disallows, yet abide

and creep beneath my carapace. I know you well; (‘DEVELOPMENT’, p152)

There are many aspects to Duncan’s work and ideas that could easily be labelled ‘Pagan’, his deep faerie and land connection for instance. And the influence of Gareth Knight, steering him towards the Qabalah, produced material which may easily be called ‘magical’ by some people. However, the book shows that throughout it all Duncan was clear and insistent on the need for a Christocentric view of the occult and the hidden dimensions. He was devout in only the way those who have gone to the very depth of their traditions, seeing the Mystery clearly, eye to eye, can be. For Duncan, nature revealed the ‘grandeur of God’ (as Knight aptly summed it up in the words of the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins) but was not God in toto. And as for magic and esoteric theories:

…magic, the art of making consciousness in accordance with the will, is a ‘lower pyramid’ exercise only. Its fulfilment is in Christ – but then it is no longer magic! (p.93)

and

Christians believe, not in avatars or incarnations, but in The Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” as a Person of that One Creature, Mankind. The integrity of the one and the many – and the One – are all bound up inextricably. Mankind is a Love Affair…We have hardly begun to think about the implications of The Incarnation for Mankind. It is easier to waffle on about theology, or “incarnations” or vague “cosmics” of one sort or another, while Godhead lies, like a time-bomb in our midst. (p.139)


The book reveals however that Rev Duncan fully and firmly accepted the reality of the inner worlds, the faeries, reincarnation, psychic power and other mainstays of the occult. He also simply accepted the core Christian doctrine that despite our best efforts we sin (move away from the One) and only with the grace of the One (through Christ) can we hope to begin to ‘want to want God’. Our own efforts, such as his definition of magic, described in quotation above, are bound to fail. These and other aspects of the Christian tradition, which remained core to his understanding of the world, are described and explored well in the book (and in some of Gareth Knight’s other works). They remain both a challenge and an opportunity for all modern students of western magic, and as such this book is ideally suited for anyone interested in magic, the occult or the deeper sides of Christianity. It is as unique as the two men, the two soul friends, who produced it. Highly recommended.

Christ & Qabalah: Or, the Mind in the Heart. Gareth Knight with Anthony Duncan. Skylight Press.

 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Three facets of the Faery Melusine


At Christmas time the traditional role for a faery seems to be perched on top of a Christmas tree, possibly, in a secular age, standing in for one of the angels who scared the pants off the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night. Although the faery Melusine of Lusignan, who knew all about meeting humans more than halfway, insisted that she was a good Christian, along with the belief that a bit of magic never did anyone any harm. Not that all ended up roses for her – but that was largely because of her husband’s fault. Trust a human to muck things up!

Anyhow her story comes to mind for me this Yuletide with the reissue, by Skylight Press, of my first book about her: Melusine of Lusignan and the Cult of the Faery Woman, and it may be helpful to distinguish this approach to Melusine as compared to my other two books about her The Romance of the Faery Melusine and The Book of Melusine of Lusignan in History, Legend and Romance. Each one shows a different facet of the lady.

I was so struck by the legend of Melusine that when I first came upon it I was moved to write out her story for myself – including that of her amazing relations – her faery mother Pressine, who hailed from Scotland (as Queen of Albany) and was on close terms with Morgan le Fay and her magic island that one only finds by chance – her sisters Melior and Palastine, respective guardians of an initiatory test of the hawk each midsummer’s day, and of a great treasure hidden in a mountain guarded by a giant - and her ten sons, most of them marked in some way as a consequence of their faery origin – one with one all seeing eye, another with three. Four of them were great heroes and rescued rich damsels in distress to become kings of Switzerland, Bohemia, Armenia and Cyprus. They had a younger brother, Geoffrey Great-tooth, who was a giant killer but subject to boar like rages and killed his brother Fromond after he had become a monk – by burning down the abbey along with the rest of the community. Then there was the aptly named Horrible, and the less said about him the better. Even his mother suggested having him put down in infancy before he grew up to be completely uncontrollable. There can be quite a savage side to those of the faery kingdoms – they are not all sugar and spice and flimsy draperies. To these stories I added a little of my own experience of contacts with faery and modern facets of the tradition with a chapter on Melusine today. All this has been supplemented in the new edition of  Melusine of Lusignan and the Cult of the Faery Woman, with a fabulous front cover of the picture of the faery flying round her castle from the Duke de Bery’s “Book of Hours” – he being a lord of Lusignan in his day. 

But for those who want to be transported by the story of Melusine by a master story teller can do no better than immerse themselves in The Romance of the Faery Melusine, which is my translation of the story as told by the brilliant French novelist André Lebey –  and I can do no better than quote from a review at the time from the librarian of the Society of the Inner Light:

·         I loved this book. I read it with the music of  French folkies “Malicorne” playing in the background, and I savoured every word. Yes, the descriptions are so evocative that one can almost taste them! Lebey/Knight have achieved a hyperrealism through an almost hallucinatory pageant of minutiae which build and heighten the sense of time and place, of mood, of emotion, creating from the bare bones of legend a world entire. And it’s action packed! All human life is there, love and loss, bravery, betrayal…The people are real, though distant in space and time; we are shown, as it were, a myth through a series of masques or tapestries that dazzle and delight the senses. Comparisons are odious, but if you are thinking to yourself “the reviewer loves it, but will I?” then if you like what Evangeline Walton did with Celtic myth, you probably will. There is in Lebey/Knight’s book a particularly French sensibility which makes it unique, of course. Here is a master of story weaving his magic and bringing the lovely lady Melusine back to us once more, impressing the legend firmly into our mind’s eye.

Suffice to say that it is one of the best selling Skylight fiction titles and one that I am very proud of, to the extent of attempting another translation of a Lebay title all about druids – but more of that later.

Finally, for those who like to buttress themselves with the factual is The Book of Melusine of Lusignan in History, Legend and Romance as a consequence of my own visit to Lusignan from which I have culled the story of Melusine as recounted by a local parish priest; a definitive essay on Melusine by the French academic Louis Stouff who edited the original text of her romance; some photographs and descriptions of the church and town of Lusignan, which the faery was also said to have built, along with a crib of the first English translation of the Melusine story of c.1500-1520. All topped off with a couple of chapters of my own researches into a historical outline of the Lords of Lusignan (a couple of whom were Kings of the Crusader Kingdoms of Cyprus and Jerusalem) and of Faery Tradition and  Jerusalem. As one of my readers, the Avalonian Ian Rees, has remarked: As someone who lives in Glastonbury and who works regularly in Jerusalem I see much potential in what is being offered to us in what can seem like a quaint story of faery ancestry. The juxtaposition of the apparently ethereal world of the Faerie with the blood and guts and ancient hatreds and holiness of Jerusalem might seem a trivial thing – a bit like calling on Tinker Bell to save the world, but trust me, Faerie can handle it. The encounter with the Christian mystery with Faery is at the heart of the Grail and Arthurian traditions and in these books it seems to me we are seeing a new unveiling of the mystery.

For more information on all this and more, take a trip to the Skylight Press web site.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Testing the Limits!


My latest book, CHRIST & QABALAH, that appears appropriately approaching Advent, stretches the limits of both magic and mysticism. It comes as a consequence of a forty year run in with a most remarkable man and priest the Reverend Canon Anthony Duncan – from our meeting at Tewkesbury Abbey back in 1964 to his passing on in 2003. Something of this story is recorded in a chapter of my autobiography I CALLED IT MAGIC as well as one or two letters quoted in YOURS VERY TRULY, GARETH KNIGHT.  However, this is “the full Monty”, the record of a friendly knock down drag out contest between an occultist and a churchman, in which both learned a great deal about each other and themselves and also what they stood for. Much testing of the limits, whether as mystic or magician.

A first consequences of this appeared in a couple of books we produced early on in the contest. On my part EXPERIENCE OF THE INNER WORLDS upon which I trained all subsequent students in what is now the Avalon Group, and on his part by THE CHRIST, PSYCHOTHERAPY AND MAGIC, his first reaction to being introduced to the Qabalah, which was greeted in the national press with the comment “Now at least one clergyman has got the point and in this book urges his fellow Christians not to dismiss occultism either as a cranky fad or as a black art....a wholly fascinating book which should be required reading for all church people.” 

And after a revelatory weekend on the holy island of Iona that opened up Tony Duncan’s psychic and mystical faculties, it was closely followed by THE LORD OF THE DANCE – an “ in your face”  revelation of contemporary mysticism that rocked me on my heels –  and then THE SWORD IN THE SUN – a highly personal conversation with a Holy Guardian Angel, chatting about reincarnation, fairy contacts and other sundry matters that were too hot to publish until Coleston Brown, a lively transatlantic member of my group, produced an edition twenty years later with his Sun Chalice press in California – alas now defunct.

Nothing loth, however, ever a man of integrity, Anthony Duncan also pushed his ideas in theological journals and elsewhere, as for example in “New Fire” – “There appears to be, in the rising generation, a considerable increase in what we may describe as ‘psychical awareness’. In addition, there is a very real and growing desire for God. There is, however, a massive impatience with institutionalism, and a real questioning as to the relevance of the institutional Church to things of the spirit at all. Our public preoccupation with ‘relevance’ has not helped us, but far worse has been the long tradition of ignorance in matters of an interior nature, our mistrust of mysticism and our rejection without very much attempt at comprehension of the ‘psychic’...The great Christian heritage of mysticism and contemplation is going by default through sheer ignorance of it.”  

Following through from all this, as we discovered, was the need to differentiate between the mystical and the magical. Much of magical practice is in terms of the psychic and intuitive, which may not necessarily be an approach to God, but rather to our own interior states, the collective unconscious, or to denizens of the inner planes. We often tend to think of the Tree of Life in two dimensional terms and  heaving ourselves up the grades until, eventually, as Ipsissimi (should we live so long!), we can be on nodding terms with God. Actually it is a lot easier than that if we remember the doctrine of the Four Worlds of the Qabalists.  That is to say in a three dimensional diagram, where the whole Tree is available to us as  Material World,  Formative World, Creative World, and Spiritual World.

We all know all about the Material World, we are well mired within it, and we can as occultists operate within the Formative and Creative worlds by elemental or angelic contacts. The Spiritual world is the one where God Imminent is to be found and quite accessible too. As the early Qabalist Isaac Luriah taught, we and the whole creation are, literally, IN God.  And not for nothing is the present book sub-titled THE MIND IN THE HEART, which is a much superior organ of perception than is generally realised. 

And as Tony Duncan, who put much of his perceptions into verse, expressed it in “Balaam’s Dog”:

The Lord, who made an ass articulate in Holy Writ has, in these latter days inspired my dog who, noticing my state observed: “You seek our Lord in many ways; you meditate for hours, breathe Yoga breath, contort yourself in postures and awake your inner depths to nightmare and near-death, perform the Dhikr, and contemplate, and make an inner Tantric sound, and go to bed exhausted and tormented in the dark. You make of Love such heavy work!” she said. “With all these arrows, do you hit the mark? Our Lord is here,” she said. “Can you not see? Our Lord is Love, and loving, Just like me!”    

Not that his message is all simple evangelism. It extends to the friendship of faery for example. And note the tone of respect.

Shall I return to fairyland who saw them dancing there? Shall I return and part the veil that hangs across thin air? Shall I intrude upon their peace who once did welcome me? Or might our blessed friendship cease should I, intruding, see? True magic is a given thing, its mysteries are not sought; its unexpected light and love not stolen are, nor bought. An open heart, a true respect for brethren yet unseen, shall yield what no man can expect, who comes where Love has been.

Whilst his insights into high mystical states can be quite mind blowing.

How many heavens does this Earth contain? What subtleties of wavelength and what bounds are set? What frequencies are tuned, what lives are lived upon another plane? For I have felt them passing by, intent upon their business, and have seen, have glimpsed their presence, known them near, befriended in the corner of an eye. All life is one. We rise or fall, each persons of one creature: Man. Our mystery proceeds to plan, one Inner Space contains us all.   

That Inner Space being the Mind of God, which  includes awareness of  the wider universe which that Divine Mind created.

Inhabitants of other spheres than this draw near the threshold of my conscious mind. As they are sent, perhaps? Or I am bidden? Some come to see the priest. Others collide, and we regard in mutual puzzlement and gently move our worlds once more apart. I must be vigilant. Four-square I must abide; discernment and compassion in my heart.

I found evidence of this when going through some of his old papers. They included a manuscript called TO THINK WITHOUT FEAR that takes “outer space” into account. In this extraordinary work, shortly to be published by Skylight Press, he includes his own experiences, and frankly examines the experience of psychic communication with "extra-terrestrial" contacts and the theological and other implications.

From this, some might consider him to be as nutty as a fruitcake. Let me assure them that he certainly was not. Anthony Duncan was the most down to earth, commonsensical and practical of men, as some of his descriptions of working as a parish priest, movingly (and sometimes amusingly) reveal – which include taking the blessed sacrament through the streets to the dying, comforting the sick, injured or demented in hospital wards, organising a vicarage garden party, and devising a Bible Quiz for the Women’s Fellowship Beetle-Drive! While as part of his lesser known vocation as a Diocesan Exorcist, producing on his retirement a guide book dealing with the Psychic Disturbance of Places “a booklet I wrote for my successors as ‘spooks’ ministry men. It has the distinction of having passed muster with the Chairman of the Church of England Doctrine Commission. Can one fly higher?”  Not that he would ever talk much about this kind of work, although aspects of  it feature in some of his poems, and in his novel FAVERSHAM’S DREAM and also in UNFINISHED BUSINESS, which has yet to come.

However, for the moment there is more than enough to stimulate, educate and ponder in our mutual effort CHRIST & QABALAH – Skylight Press. And a jolly good Christmas present too!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Magical Novels and Magical Rites


What seems likely to be the most popular esoteric title so far in the publications of Skylight Press is the recently published Dion Fortune’s Rites of Isis and of Pan containing scripts of the rites that were written and performed by Dion Fortune back in the 1930’s. They have rather been kept under wraps ever since, but there comes a time for everything, on this occasion sparked when Wendy Berg, out of the blue, asked me if Dion Fortune had ever written a Rite of Pan, and if so, was it likely to be hanging around anywhere? 

I passed on the enquiry to the Warden of the Society of the Inner Light, feeling prompted at the same time to suggest that, if there was, it might be a good idea  to publish it – along with the Rite of Isis. To my delight an answer quickly came back, not only in the affirmative but with a great deal of enthusiasm, along with copies of the original scripts.

It remained only for me to add some research of my own showing how the rites linked to her novels The Winged Bull, The Goat-foot God, The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic. And in reading these through again I learned quite a lot as to their close links and mutual importance.

Along with this I was able to add a couple of articles that Dion Fortune wrote about her novels in The Inner Light Magazine at the time. Also an historically important article she wrote for The Occult Review in 1933, entitled Ceremonial Magic Unveiled, which hailed two new books by the young Israel Regardie, whom she took under her wing and supported his initiation into a Bristol branch of the Golden Dawn, (from which much upturning of apple carts would later ensue!) However, his Tree of Life and Garden of Pomegranates effectively ended the culture of secrecy that had hitherto surrounded the Golden Dawn tradition of magic, and Dion Fortune's own work, The Mystical Qabalah, was soon to follow.

She had been working on The Mystical Qabalah since 1931 and its publication led in turn to her writing and publicly performing her Rite of Isis and Rite of Pan, and illustrating their principles in her novels. Sexual polarity played a large part in their format although the topic, in the form of “etheric magnetism” is much broader than this, as she went on to describe in a series of articles called The Circuit of Force in 1939-40 – since published by Thoth Publications with a commentary by me that was much helped by my coming across an old text on etheric magnetism on a bookstall in Paris. Nice piece of synchronicity!

In her novels she gives some practical examples of this, notably in The Winged Bull where Ursula Brangwyn “charges up” Ted Murchison when he is in a particularly depleted state, and in the novels that followed she became increasingly open about its application in a ritual context.

The Rite of Pan is alluded to in The Goat-foot God but without very much detail, but the script of the Rite of Isis is quite extensively quoted in The Sea Priestess and in Moon Magic. What is perhaps more important, and which can tend to be overlooked, are her descriptions of what participation in a magical ritual may feel like – given the right conditions and attitude to what is going on.  Over the years she had also set out, in various articles in The Inner Light Magazine various hints about the technique of ritual, most of which have been collected together with matching articles by me, published by Thoth Publications as An Introduction to Ritual Magic in 1997.

 For example she is at pains to point out:

“Ceremonial magic is not primarily designed to produce objective phenomena, but to operate in the invisible kingdoms. The immediate results are not observed by the physical eye, but by psychic vision, and the end results are diffused and indirect, but nevertheless very definite. If we approach ceremonial magic from this point of view, we can learn a great deal, and we can also do a great deal; but if we expect of it what it is not designed to perform, we shall be disappointed...It must be clearly realised that magic can only be done effectually by a trained person, and that results are not a foregone conclusion, but in proportion to skill and experience. Natural aptitude also plays a part. The first requisite is the power to concentrate; the second, the power to build up an image in the imagination with the same clarity as a novelist visualises his characters; the third is the power to throw consciousness out of gear and let the subconscious mind ‘take over’. ... The result of such an operation, if successful, is to produce a profound psychological effect on all concerned and an extraordinary atmosphere in the room where it is performed.”

Such is the aim of the performance of scripts such as the Rite of Isis and the Rite of Pan. But what is the point of all this? She goes on to say:

“Now if temporary exaltation and nothing more were produced, ceremonial magic would rank with alcohol as an intoxicant with possible medicinal uses and a definite entertainment value; but such an exaltation extends consciousness, develops capacity, and affects character to a marked degree. It will not change a person’s character, making him something he is not, but it will bring out anything of a corresponding nature that is latent in just the same way that hypnotism will, and for the same reason – that it touches the deepest levels of consciousness and releases inhibitions. It is for this reason that ceremonial will do in an hour what can only be done by meditation in months or years.”

Although along with this come some caveats:

“The persons taking part must be carefully chosen, both for their own sakes and for the sake of the success of the operation; they must be properly trained and know what they are about, and they must gain experience with minor potencies and rites before they attempt the high-powered ones. Some exponent s of occultism decry all ritual as dangerous, and no doubt it would be so in their hands; but there is no reason why foxes who have got tails should cut them off!”

For this reason there was no doubt a discrete selection process in her performing these rites in public, but it was her theory that beneficial results without too much risk could be achieved by reading her novels and identifying with the characters. Not that this was entirely fool proof, as she notes in 1936:

The Winged Bull was published last year with results that were to be expected – the reviewers passed by on the other side; a fair number of folk wrote to express unbridled admiration; and a few let off screeches of  agony and abuse which showed that their complexes had been trodden on. In fact our library is enriched by a copy which was presented by a lady who was so horrified at it that she not only would not keep it in the house, but would not place it in the dustbin lest it corrupt the scavengers.”

Nonetheless, her esoteric novels have remained in print, off and on, for over seventy years – which is one celebrated definition of “literary immortality”. They are currently published by Weiser Books in the U.S.A. 

With this new book, discerning readers can now read them in the light of the actual Rites of Isis and of Pan, along with some of her own comments on her intentions in a couple of contemporary articles The Novels of Dion Fortune (1936) and The Winged Bull: A Study in Esoteric Psychology (1938), to which I have added an extract from her magical diary of 1931 on The Establishment of the Sphere of Yesod in the Aura; some notes on The Circuit of Force that was circulated to members of her Society in 1939 (some were a bit nervous about it!); and finally a transcript of a trance address to senior members of the Society of the Inner Light in December 1940 on the subjects of  magical and mystical polarity.