Thursday, July 02, 2015

Forget ET and think Mr Spock?


In a learned book published today Professor Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University argues that aliens who resemble human beings should have evolved on at least some of the many Earth like planets recently discovered by astronomers, although his theory begs the question of Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox – why, if aliens exist, have they not made contact?

But maybe they have. In looking through the late Rev. Antony Duncan’s papers in search of material to publish I came across some records to suggest as much to someone I knew, but who kept quiet about it at the time.  There are limits to what a psychically gifted vicar can admit! “To Think Without Fear” (Skylight Press) contains his record of contact with at least three types, and to members of his family, along with the social and metaphysical implications.

Well, he did not keep entirely quiet about it; he hinted as much to me at the time but I did not take him seriously – although I did quote some of it, somewhat jocularly, in “Christ & Qabalah” (pp. 195-199) the record of our association over forty years.

But some of the implications of what he wrote in some of his poetry are indeed only just coming home to me:

As Universe and Universe converge, the heavens fall into their melting-pots.

Reordering of Inner Space is consequent upon a change of Mind; a train of thought pursued towards a new fulfilment.

Hands are stretched across infinities of inner depths to seek, to find a hand beyond imagining by either questing mind....

Opening lines of “All Things Converge” (‘Christ & Qabalah p.194)

All fascinating and quite challenging stuff! New dynamics for a new age?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Reflecting upon Images


Time is like a linear cut-out of a two-dimensional carnival pageant that can be seen curving round the external grounds of the abbey. This is difficult to describe, and more so to explain, but we do best, I fancy, simply to present you with images, as they appear on the inner planes. Reflecting upon these images (and ‘reflecting’ is an accurate word) strange though they may seem, can cause you to gain another perspective upon what seems to your material consciousness to be an all-encompassing quantum. It is far from being that, you have my word. But as a young child has first to learn to come to terms with modes of perception on the physical plane, so does man have like problems when passing from physical life into the conditions of the inner planes.

And once focused upon the inner planes, it is an additional skill to be able to look from there and see accurately and well into the outer.  It is rather like staring into a dim and murky pool, with qualities that not only refract but distort the light. However these are in accordance with codifiable laws laid down by the builders of form upon the etheric sub-planes. One’s sight is obscured by having to gaze through the etheric, the level of scaffolding and struts, so to speak,  that hold the structures of the outer world together in coherence.

Thus communication between inner and outer worlds is a specialist task, whether one is upon the inner or the outer planes; that is to say, looking out or looking in. And why it is that sometimes one may have confusion or distorted communication from those whose desire for service exceeds their trained or natural abilities. This is a problem which affects all. One can even have disoriented angels, as well as disoriented and confused mediums, adepts and initiates.

Thus is magic, in all its forms, a difficult and noble science. It is an intimate attempt at penetrating the Veil of Isis. It is a way that is not forbidden – only difficult. It is like a man standing at a very thick wall, with a hollow tin or glass placed to his ear, striving to receive communication from the other side. That is the situation with ordinary untrained man. As one progresses so the wall becomes thinner, more translucent and transaudient, until it is of the texture of a fine veil. But one can pass through it in full consciousness (I speak not of temporary states of trance, vision or psychic perception) only at death.

 [The Abbey Papers, p.46]

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Contacting the Western Masters


Over the Summer Solstice there has been some interest in an old tape recording of mine called “Contacting the Western Masters”. We hope to be able to  reissue it some time but converting ancient technology is a time consuming business and we have much else on our plates at Skylight Press. Hopefully, some time within the next twelve months.

In the meantime anyone seriously interested could do a lot worse than take a look at a couple of books of mine. "The Abbey Papers" contains scripts of contacts with these particular masters and, if you were to read these through in a meditative manner, that could work just as well as listening to a tape. Also my little book "Magical Images and the Magical Imagination" gives detailed guidance on making similar contacts.

I make this suggestion along with a cautionary quote from “Letters of Light”, the magical letters of William G Gray to Alan Richardson, a recently published by Skylight  – “By the way, don’t attempt  to ‘hear words’, just ‘get it by contact’. The contact will sort itself out into English via your mind in its own time. In fact it is silly to expect English or any other human language on that level, for no one speaks like that there.”

In other words, what matters is a ‘mind to mind’ contact on an intuitive level – which is how I have learned to work - apart from rare occasions such as the ‘Abbey’ contact that came upon me all unexpected and unsought for while editing the war letters of Dion Fortune. 

More details of these titles can be found on the Skylight Press web site.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

MIDSUMMER MUSINGS


I was once approached by a respected academic asking for my take on the life and work of Dion Fortune. He found it difficult to account for what he perceived as her first being a kind of ‘wishy washy’ Christian mystic and then turning to the Qabalah and coming up with some pretty hot pagan stuff in her Rites of Isis and of Pan.

Well first of all we need to disabuse ourselves of the thought that Dion Fortune was ‘wishy washy’ about anything, along with the assumption that there is anything  ‘wishy washy’ in Christian mysticism. Although there is indeed plenty of quite ‘wishy washy’ pagan stuff  about these days, including soft porn fairy fantasies, although I don’t suppose that bothers Old Horny too much!

I have been quite intrigued by this problem over the past year or so, in making a study of the life and work of the occultist Paul Sédir, who, after distinguishing himself as one of the leading lights in French occultism, was brought up short by the life and work of a gentleman called Nizier Philippe who just went around healing  people.

Monsieur Philippe seems to have been a down to earth Christian mystic of a far from ‘wishy washy’ kind. Not that he was particularly welcomed by the church, which may have felt a bit upstaged by him, for even when he was a child the local curé was worried that his unusual powers might come from the devil.

Nor did the adult Monsieur Philippe enjoy a very good reception from the medical profession, who felt their livelihood threatened and tried to close him down by taking him to law on several occasions. And when as a young man he sought medical qualifications as an intern at the local hospital he was slung out for curing people unofficially on the side. The crunch point came when he cured the leg of a patient who was due to have it amputated next day. Whatever the feelings of the patient might have been, the surgeon was far from grateful!

The shock of  Monsieur Philippe was no less to members of the contemporary occult establishment in France, including Papus, author of The Tarot of the Bohemians and various textbooks on magic – who was also a qualified doctor and specialist on hypnosis,  but who virtually became a Christian mystic in the face of Monsieur Philippe’s powers, regarding him as his ‘spiritual master’.

Paul Sédir was another occultist considerably impressed, and in trying to come to terms with it all, wrote an intriguing book called Initiations, which I translated last year. It is an intriguing work because it hovers between traditional occult theory and practice (both Eastern and Western) and the brute fact of Christian mysticism at its most direct – not only in the matter of instant cures, or resuscitation of the recently departed, but bizarre shifts in time and space.  

Such things cannot be produced to order of course, “the Spirit  bloweth where it listeth” but there seem to be some for whom it blows in a favourable direction;  whom Sédir came to call ‘Friends of God’. And in particular one known as ‘Theophane’ in his book, leading Sédir to speculate whether there are such ‘divine incarnations’ in the modern world in light of the one who said he would be “with us until the end of the world!”

A key question for many in the esoteric world who may regard themselves as Christian is whether such an Incarnation of ‘the Word’ was a once and still on- going personal event  rather than some  remote ‘Christ Force’ blowing our way if we happen to tap into it in meditation.  Or, at the other extreme, may see the gospel story simply the fate of an idealistic, ‘highly evolved’ young man who got the wrong side of the religious and political establishment of his day.

According to Monsieur Philippe not taking the New Testament at face value is a  bad mistake. Paul Sédir came to agree with him, to the point of almost regarding the four Gospels as a magical document if taken literally. He records in Initiations the surprise of some Eastern adepti at Westerners not realising that fact. And I believe the Dalai Lama may recently have hinted as much.

But when it comes to the Divine, then the field of operation becomes somewhat beyond  astral visualisation or mental callisthenics;  spiritual qualities are required. Indeed the theory is laid out in the Qabalah in the doctrine of the Four Worlds, in which the Tree of Life is regarded as operative at four levels. The Material, the Formative, the Creative, and the Spiritual. Assiah, Yetzirah, Briah, Atziluth. Or Physical, Elemental, Angelic, Divine.

The closest that spiritual qualities can be described is in somewhat hackneyed two thousand year old terms –  Faith, Hope and Charity.  And all three are very much positive virtues, rather than passive or ‘wishy washy’ ones. And although St Paul plumped for the last when trying to deal with the stroppy and argumentative Corinthians, the first was the one that Jesus kept reminding his followers that they lacked. Presumably because those of little faith may well be on the way to becoming hopeless and loveless too! Let alone being able to move mountains. Even the mountains of our own unbelief.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

LETTERS OF LIGHT

If you buy only one more book this year make sure it is this one - from Skylight Press.

Letters from old magus W.G.Gray to the young enquirer Alan Richardson back in 1969/70.

If you want a second opinion go see Peregrin Wildoak's review of it on his blog site https://magicoftheordinary.wordpress.com

Words of wisdom for anyone beginning on the occult path - and well worth thinking about for anyone further along the way.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Flirtations with the Spirit of the Tarot

I'm 85 years old today! Time for a little indulging in memories of things past. And what better than the Tarot?

One set of words of wisdom that have paid off for me is “don’t be afraid to take on a job that nobody else wants – for you never know where it may lead!”

This certainly applied back in the early 1960’s when I agreed to take on the job of part time unpaid librarian at the Society of the Inner Light. Not a very onerous task it should be said, consisting of running a postal circulating library that had about half a dozen customers a week. So with wrapping paper, sellotape and string supplied by the management it just needed a couple of hours spare time a week to keep the customers happy.

What nobody had factored in was the prospect of an American publisher writing in out of the blue wanting to reissue a couple of Dion Fortune’s titles – The Secrets of Dr. Taverner and The Esoteric Orders and their Work – and then ask someone in the Society to write an Introduction to each one of them. Nobody in the place was willing to take this on so the job was passed on to the part time unpaid librarian. I duly did my best and to such effect that the request came back for me to have a go at writing a book on the Tree of Life that included coverage of the 22 Paths between the Sephiroth.

This of course required a pretty close study of the Tarot. I was willing to take this on but, unbelievable as it may seem, it was impossible to find a pack of Tarot cards for sale in London at that time.  Nobody was interested apart from an outfit called the Insight Institute that used to advertise in Prediction and who produced a version of their own. Not bad but nothing like the real McCoy of the traditional 18th century Marseilles designs, let alone A.E.Waite and Pixie Colman-Smith’s esoteric version produced in 1910.

However I had the run of the Society’s library which had pretty well all the literature on the subject, and on the strength of this I compiled (at quite tedious length) a comparative description of the main decks I knew about. I think this performed something of a public service as A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism after fifty years still sells enough copies to make reprinting it just about worth while, even if without the opportunity to update it  apart from a new Introduction I was able to smuggle into the one volume paperback version in 2000 A.D.

During the writing of it I did have the opportunity to get closer to the Crowley-Harris Tarot than anyone else probably has, when I was asked by a publisher thinking about re-issuing it to check upon its state of preservation. My wife and I duly turned up at the Piccadilly branch of Lloyd’s Bank where the quite hefty originals were wheeled up from the vaults in trucks by the distinctly bemused and somewhat resentful porters as we ploughed our way through all 79 designs, (the extra one being the design on back of the cards).  

And when it became obvious that there were no esoteric Tarot packs to be had, I had the further challenge cast upon me to design a set for the new book. So for any students of mine who have sweated under the task of designing their own set of Tarot cards I can assure them that I have not asked anyone to do what I have not done myself! The only regret I had about asking students to perform this task was when one senior student, who was very painstaking and artistically gifted, had half a dozen of his designs chewed up by my dog who got to the front doormat before me after the postman called. I still blush at the memory. I am not sure that I – or my dog – were ever truly forgiven!

However, at least for my own set of designs I did not have to rely upon my own very average efforts but could rely on a real artist – so I chose a Dutch astrologer friend of mine, Sander Littel, which meant a trip or two over to Holland, where as a gustatory initiation I was introduced to eating raw fish. Which all goes to show where getting involved with the Tarot might lead you!  

More challenges were on the way however. The publisher who had commissioned book and  cards ran into some unexpected financial problems (not uncommon in the trade!) and so had to shelve both items indefinitely. So much for literary fame. Book written and typeset but held hostage by a printer, cards all designed and painted but similarly seized pending settlement of outstanding bills.

However, I have a touching faith in destiny, or at any rate the way inner plane powers have of setting things up to turn out all right in the end – even if they keep you chewing your fingernails until the last minute! I managed to get a friend of the Society of the Inner Light to put up the money for me to publish the book myself – which was the start of Helios Books as a publisher – but all depended on the blessing of the current Warden of the Society, who unfortunately did not like the Tarot part of it. It has to be recalled that the Tarot had something of a disreputable reputation in those days and the word “occult” was not one to be readily associated with by any respectable people.

By an irony of fate, in a bid to reach out to the public forty years later, a new Warden issued a pack designed by himself, called the Dion Fortune Tarot, although it has to be said that Dion Fortune had very little to do with it apart from her name on the packet. She showed little interest in the Tarot in her private or public papers and in a rare article on divination seemed to prefer geomancy.

Anyhow in those more straitlaced times the title of my book had to be changed from the all embracing A Practical Guide to Occult Symbolism to the more accurate but limited A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism and it was touch and go whether financial subvention would be forthcoming. However, someone or something must have given a discrete shove on the inner side of things, for in the end the scale of Maat tipped into the right direction at any rate as far as the book was concerned. But full colour printing being hideously expensive in those days, the cards had to be abandoned. Zilch reward for poor old Sander Littel after a year’s hard graft!

However, things can sometimes come right in the end, if only at the end of  twenty years, because in 1984, US Games Systems came to the rescue, got the artwork out of hock and finally produced the Gareth Knight Tarot and we got a few royalties. But what might have been a pioneering deck in a world bereft of Tarot cards, after the tremendous explosion of interest in Tarot during the 1970’s, trailed rather ingloriously behind rather like the muck cart after the Lord Mayor’s show.

I look back upon the deck with some affection, not a bad old thing, but my own, and rather   regard it as apprentice work – but then one’s ideas about the Tarot evolve over the years – and it could be no bad idea to keep refashioning one’s own, say every ten years. But by then you might not need them. The wisdom and symbolism is all in the mind really – not on the cardboard. 

However, if I ever dreamed that my thoughts on the Tarot might be universally welcomed by an astonished world I soon had my illusions shattered by that formidable old occultist William G Gray. As I proudly showed him my new book he took one look and then sighed with heavily charged world weariness bordering on contempt “Oh you’ve used the old Golden Dawn attributions!” and dismissed the work as useless.

Of course one might have expected such a reaction from an occultist of Bill Gray’s calibre who had gone far beyond the Golden Dawn interpretation of things and come up with his own correspondences with the Paths on the Tree of Life.  He eventually got round to elucidating his views in a book called The Talking Tree, recently reissued by Skylight Press, but had some difficulty getting it published in the early days because his views were considered too idiosyncratic by timid and semi-ignorant commissioning editors. However they have since been taken up and used highly effectively by the likes of Alan Richardson and R.J.Stewart, and I have used them on occasion myself. Although I still prefer the old Golden Dawn attributions for my personal use, with a few nips and tucks here and there.

We need to keep in mind that there is no “one and only true” system of Tarot/Path correspondences. In the first instance no such Qabalistic tie up was ever thought of until the French occultist Eliphas Levi came up with the idea in the 1850’s. And his system of correspondences, which was  taken up by his admirer Dr Gerard Encausse (“Papus”) in 1893 in “The Tarot of the Bohemians” differs radically yet again from the Golden Dawn attributions because Levi placed Trump 0 – the Fool – towards the end of the sequence of Trumps rather that at the beginning.

The difference between accepted correspondences between Francophile and Anglophile students of the Tarot bothered me a little when I was invited to lecture to the Martinist Order in Paris but I need not have worried. My hosts were very open minded and it was interesting to see how they had put their own take on symbolic matters, as for example by regarding Trump I, the Juggler, (which in French is le Bateleur) as representing the neophyte first starting out on the path by hearing the hour of realisation strike, because the name can be read as Le Bat á l’Heure!  Which is not far different from William Gray’s positioning of the image on the 30th Path, between Yesod and Hod, where as the Magician, he is seen to represent the condition of subconscious imagination being converted into intellectual ideas. Which is not so different from the capabilities of a Juggler (of ideas or balls) if you think about it.

Anyway by a happy coincidence my first trip to France coincided with a magnificent exhibition of Tarot cards at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Everything from the fabulously fashioned gold encrusted early Florentine cards such as the Visconti-Sforza to the many versions issued by playing card manufacturers who catered for the popular game (of which the Marseilles Tarot is but one among many) and on to high art dabbling by the likes of the surrealist Salvador Dali.

I  had the good fortune to meet one of the organisers of this event some years later, Professor Michael Dummett, who after a massive tome on the Tarot as a game The Game of Tarot  found himself embroiled with esoteric enthusiasts whom he had never heard of, and bookshops that insisted on putting his book on the occult shelves. As a celebrated philosopher and Professor of Logic at Oxford University he did not much care for his newfound associates. However, it spurred him and his academic colleagues to go on to have a shot at the origins of the occult Tarot in A Wicked Pack of Cards in 1996 and then onto a more detailed A History of the Occult Tarot in 2002. Far from being a fire breathing old dragon I found him an old boy of much charm when he treated me to lunch at the Charing Cross Hotel to thresh out some ideas, in which I think I improved his original impression of occultists, as did his meetings with a few others in the esoteric backwoods, and I found myself quite kindly treated in his latter book, even with a chapter to myself, but which only went up to 1970 because, after that, the popular Tarot explosion grew to mammoth proportions quite impossible to cover in the pages of any book of less than encyclopaedic pretentions.  Though one has indeed been produced by Stuart Kaplan of U.S.Games Systems, which stretches to three volumes.

This is to anticipate events a bit, after the high jinks of getting my book published in 1964 came a gap of some twenty years between the next serious flirtation with the Tarot, when in 1984 the Gareth Knight Tarot made the light of day thanks to Stuart Kaplan. Not that that it was necessarily a red letter day in the history of the universe but it seemed to trigger off a new phase of Tarot involvement, starting with a workshop at Hawkwood College which resulted in turn to the publication of Tarot & Magic in which I took on board some of the issues mentioned above, and showed different ways in which the Tarot could be used, in ritual circumstances, or as a connected series of directed visualisations, following the course of the Serpent of Wisdom up the Tree of Life from Malkuth to Kether .

I recently revisited this book to double its length in a Skylight edition taking in a number of other ways to juggle this great panoply of symbolic wisdom. Although the Tarot book closest to my heart remains my treatment of the Tarot as a children’s story To the Heart of the Rainbow when I fancied my chances of getting one up on C.S.Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Fat chance! But still one of my favourite ways of playing with the Tarot and one I recommend. Let your fancy run free! There is only one ideal Tarot, and that is the one you fashion within your own heart.  

As I have grown older, and possibly wiser, I have come to regard the Tarot more as a free standing system of wisdom without having to be tied to any other – be it Tree of Life or whatever. In pursuit of this idea I launched a correspondence course back in the 1990’s called The Magical World of the Tarot. It purported to be a course on how to read the Tarot but which had an ulterior purpose to encourage enquirers new to the subject to develop their creative imagination. I no longer run the course, there are other attractions in my life, but the book chunters on in the United States, and I was most touched by a letter from an American sergeant of marines who wrote to say he found it of great help to him in life. So that is one satisfied reader – satisfying to me, that is! And a considerable difference from some esoteric workshop clientel I have tried to please in the esoteric stews of Lower Manhattan and elsewhere.

Obviously I am happier these days sat behind a keyboard. But an equally fulfilling practice is to sit with a set of Tarot cards, try to make contact with the inner intelligence beyond, either Magician or Fool, and have a little chat. One up on telling fortunes – other people’s or one’s own.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

INITIATIONS by Paul Sedir


The first review of my new translation of Paul Sedir’s important and fascinating book has just dropped onto my desk – courtesy of the Inner Light Journal. Here it is:

This is the distillation of a work 25 years in the making, written by Yvon le Loup who was born in 1871, and who adopted the pen-name “Paul Sedir”. As a young man he worked under the patronage of the famous occultist “Papus” and rose through the ranks of various esoteric fraternities in Paris. He lived in Montmartre during the fin de siècle period in Paris, interesting times, and was well known for his “exceptional knowledge and powerful presence.”

This is an exceptional book, and we are grateful to Gareth Knight for reintroducing it to a modern audience. Mr Knight is well known for his translations of French esoteric texts, and he has helped to bring to life that particular sensibility that is uniquely French. Paris is brought to life, the Paris of gas lighting and horse-drawn carriages, a city undergoing great changes during the time the book was written.

It is seemingly a simple enough tale, the tale of a doctor and his group of close friends, of meetings, discussions and conversations; much of what occurs is factual, although that is hard to believe at times. However, “Initiations” has hidden depths, and much may be revealed if time is allowed for concepts to germinate in the mind of the reader. As Gareth Knight says in his excellent introduction, the book can have a powerful impact on the reader, “Initiations” creeps up and lodges itself in the heart, with echoes that last long after the final page is closed. It is a book that richly rewards re-reading and we would recommend it highly as a classic of its kind.

Skylight Press  ISBN 978 1 908011 99 2  210 pages £12.99  $19.99

“Initiations” by Paul Sedir, translated and introduced by Gareth Knight

I only came upon Paul Sedir comparatively recently and the effect upon me was as great as that which I experienced when first coming upon the works of Dion Fortune back in 1953.  Still it is never too late to make amends and I am now working on a couple of books to bring this remarkable and neglected occultist and mystic to an English speaking audience. Sedir deserves a much wider readership and why should the French have all the goodies?  Titles not fixed upon yet (usually the last thing in a book to be decided!) but one is a translation of another of his books and the other my evocation of Paul Sedir and his friends in that incredibly rich period of occultism in Paris at much the same time as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was getting under way in England.

 For more details – watch this space and the web site of Skylight Press. www.skylightpress.co.uk

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Planetary Being


A “great generating elemental” was how Arthur Chichester, the Warden of the Society of the Inner Light from 1946 to 1979, liked to describe the Planetary Being, and it was he who was responsible for drawing special attention to it, although it made its original appearance in a remarkable work by Dion Fortune back in 1922/4 called The Cosmic Doctrine, in which however, it was called the ‘Planetary Spirit’.

There had been long debate within the Fraternity, in the secretive atmosphere of 1930’s occultism, as to whether The Cosmic Doctrine should be reserved for the private study of advanced initiates or released to the world. Not that the world, or any commercial publisher at the time, was particularly ready to receive it, for it is not a particularly easy read. However, Arthur Chichester made it his business to see that it was published, in 1949, in a semi-private edition, funded by the Society.

Then as a result of his close study of the text in editing it for publication, he came realise that the term Planetary Spirit was something of a misnomer, for it is not so much a Spirit as an  Etheric vehicle. In fact it says as much at certain places. Along with the point that it is reliant for its cosmic evolution on the practice and example of those forms of life in its sphere that have consciousness above the etheric level – which means US!

At one of the Wednesday evening discussion groups held by the Society during the 1950’s the Warden raised these points, also seeking suggestions for a more appropriate name. After an awkward few minutes of desperate brain scratching, Miss G.P.Lathbury, (otherwise known as ‘Dragon’, a stalwart from very early days of the group), came up with the suggestion “Planetary Being” – which was greeted with general relief and accord.

 Henceforth, this was what it was called in the subsequent editions of The Cosmic Doctrine issued by Aquarian Press in 1957 and Helios Books in 1966. But then, in 1995, after a period of being out of print, the Society issued its own edition, making a virtue of reverting to the original text, which meant retaining the old term “Planetary Spirit”.  This same text and terminology were also used for the American edition published by Weisers in 2000.

Both these  later editions had the attraction of providing explanatory diagrams drawn by C.T.Loveday, Dion Fortune’s close associate who had probably been the scribe who took down the original dictation from the entranced Dion Fortune. They also restored material that had been edited out of former editions on potentially hot topics such as the Law of Impactation and Law of Polarity, although they were of a formidable technicality and so unlikely to be abused by the casual unrighteous.

The American edition also reinstated a Part II, called Afterthoughts. This had been added to the 1957 and 1966 editions but was dropped in the 1995 one. This section was largely the work of Margaret Lumley Brown in the 1950’s, and had been regarded  as having the same authority as the main body of the work. It contains valuable further material on the Planetary Being, referring to it by that name, despite the old ‘Planetary Spirit’ usage still appearing in the main body of the text. An anomaly perhaps missed by the copy editors of the time – but a happy accident. 

This section brought the book to a close with some practical advice on working with the Planetary Being, describing it as “a vast Elemental composed of the consciousness (using the word in a wide sense) of each one of its children – the children being all the lives upon the Earth, humans, beasts, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, etc....There is no thing on earth, no thought brought through to earth which does not concern the Planetary Being – however great or lofty, however (unfortunately) mean or base...

“Be aware of the Planetary Being as a being of immense age in which each one of you is as it were  embedded  and through which you draw your earth-life; it could be compared to an enormous bee-hive with millions of sections each of which holds a small bee making honey. Be aware, too, of the Archangelic Intelligence (traditionally Sandalphon, its guide) as having tremendous protection, love and devotion for each and every creature on the earth because each creature is part of earth, and as being able to guide each one of you, either indirectly through the Planetary Being, or directly if you have the right approach to him and have earned and maintained the right of direct contact with him.”

This was certainly put into practice by the Society which in its ceremonial work from thereon  always included an officer charged with the duty of mediating the spiritual forces of the Lodge to the Planetary Being.

Although this esoteric practice might seem of small moment to any outsider, there is reason to suppose that this sustained spiritual work began to have an effect upon the group soul, or at least to have demonstrated some intuition of what was to come, if it is true that initiates form the antennae of the human race.

In part, this came about by what has come to be called the Gaia hypothesis. Formulated by the chemist James Lovelock around 1965 and co-developed during the 70’s with the microbiologist Lynn Margulis, it has since been a subject of continuous debate in scientific circles, with international conferences in 1985, 1988, 2000 and 2006 and battle lines drawn up in accustomed academic fashion. The minutiae of this need not concern us, as consciousness of the importance of the Earth has come up in other ways, including popular culture, and is a stirring of deep and ancient roots.

The name Gaia, suggested by the novelist William Golding as being appropriate to the idea of the Earth being an integrated whole, or a living being, has its origins in the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth. (The name is variously spelt, and she figures as “Ge” in Dion Fortune’s Rite of Isis and her novels The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic.)

In Hesiod’s Theogony she appears as “wide bosomed Gaia, the ever sure foundation of all...and Gaia first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, to be the ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-nymphs who dwell among the glens of the hills. She bore also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love  (i.e parthogenetically) but afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theira and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethis...” and so it goes on in a great list of gods and titans and giants and great beings. She was also believed by some to be the original deity behind the Delphic Oracle.

 It is therefore small wonder that she has been taken up by the neo-pagan movement, in various perspectives ranging from the Earth itself to its spiritual embodiment as Earth Goddess. In this role some antique depictions of her show her as a matron half risen from the earth, sometimes in the act of holding forth a baby, an early Athenian king, to the goddess Pallas Athene, or else reclining on the earth surrounded by a host of infant gods of the fruits of the earth.

In 1968 an awareness of the Earth received a powerful stimulus with the stunning image of the planet in space, photographed by the astronaut William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission – as great a shock as when Drake and other 16th century navigators demonstrated the world to be round!

There has also been growing concern (and dispute) on the subject of planetary warming and the effects our technological age may have upon the balance of nature. These are matters for leaders of the human race to sort out, hopefully with more success than traditionally occurred in Atlantis!  With possibly equally dire consequences if the forces of misrule and “contending heads” win the day. 

Hence the importance of esoteric work of due responsibility and vision.

The Cosmic Doctrine, with its abstract concepts and analogies (along with some inconsistencies and lacunae it has to be said) is not everybody’s cup of tea. Abstruse as it may seem, it can have the effect of training the mind as well as informing it, developing an intuitive faculty that can reach up to planes beyond the usual level of personality consciousness, and possibly to contact with those who were originally involved in the project.

In a dual Introduction to the 1995 and 2000 editions Dion Fortune and one of the original communicators give a very clear account of how they approached the task. What is not mentioned is that it was the work of a team of about half a dozen communicators on the inner side, working at various levels, between 30th July 1923 and 25th February 1925, in about thirty different sessions. And as Dion Fortune admits, having received it unconsciously, she later had to work as hard as anyone else in trying to understand it.

But even if we should find it difficult going to the text for ourselves, we can still gain from what others have realised from working with it, particularly as regards our responsibilities toward the Planetary Being. This is a matter that concerns all of us. All we have to do is get on with it!

 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

"Initiations" by Paul Sedir


It seems very strange that a year ago I had not even heard of Paul Sédir, despite my involvement in things esoteric, including the French, for more than sixty years. My Amazon account tells me that I bought a copy of a translation of his book Initiations in October 2013 and here we are in October 2014, with Skylight Press about to publish my own translation of this remarkable work. Which shows how impressed I was by it.

I decided to embark on my own translation because although I would not claim my own version to be faultless, the ones by Mouni Sadhu and by Mme Zadah-Guerin of some years ago have the kind of errors that are likely to beset someone not translating into their native tongue (for example anyone following a spiritual vocation being called a ‘spiritualist’) along with a certain stiltedness and some idiomatic misunderstanding. Nonetheless one remains very grateful for their pioneering efforts and I salute them for it. In the search for gold, they got there first!

Something of the importance of Sédir’s book is reflected in reviews of the previous translations. Thus:

I read this book first when I was 20. I have waited and looked on old sites for it for years. Finally I have the opportunity to re-read the book that I learned most from ever. As I re-read it, my heart expands with each word I read. It is profound, human and heart warming. It is a classic for anyone studying the yogic ways. [L.S. 9/2010]

God, this book really gets your head around what it takes you to find your Master. It takes you a lot of sacrifices into preparing yourself to earn that rare occurrence of grace. Every truth seeker is looking for “Theophane”, and only those who really deserve the honour – the Master will find. This book is so mystical in nature and it opens a lot of possibilities in your mind, confirming how much ignorance there is in the world, and what’s really going on in the spiritual world. [A.H.K. 10/2009]

In short, this is one of the greatest books on Western occultism and spiritual practice ever penned. It is tragic that this is the only one of Sédir’s books to have made it into English after more than a century. [P.S. 8/2012]

Although it may appear to be a work of fiction, there is (believe it or not!)  more fact than fiction in it, as well as the four main characters  portraying elements of the human psyche. The Doctor who is seeking occult knowledge and practice represents ordinary consciousness, Andreas is the higher self, Stella the intuition, and Theophane the divine spark at the centre of the human being. Yet it is by no means just an allegory. These are real and remarkable characters, and are  based on real life characters. Each of whom, along with some of the astounding esoteric theories and practices described, can have a powerful impact upon the reader. Anyway, you have been warned. Don’t expect to come out of reading it completely unchanged!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Cross Bath and the Temple of Pansophia


 

In an anonymous work called The Compass of the Wise, published in Berlin in 1779, there is a diagram known as the Temple of Pansophia.

Upon a squared pavement two Pillars support the Royal Arch of the heavens. The right hand pillar, Boaz, carries the elemental symbols of Water and Earth and has the Moon at its top. The left hand pillar, Jachin, carries the elemental symbols of Fire and Air and is crowned with the Sun. The Superior World of the stars is above, the Inferior World of Primal Chaos is below, and in between is a circular temple of seven pillars.

            Each pillar represents one of the seven traditional planets: Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and by extension the seven traditional metals: gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, iron, tin and lead. Above the flat circular roof of the temple, rays from their sigils converge in the conjoined symbols of alchemical mercury and alchemical sulphur, of which a fourteenth century alchemical manuscript attributed to Roger Bacon declares: "All metalls and minerals, whereof there be sundrie and diverse kinds, are begotten of these two." And seven descending rays also converge into this mediating symbol of the foundation of all metals.  

To the intellectual eye this Temple of Pansophia, which features on the front of the Skylight Press edition of my History of White Magic,  may seem just one more diagram from a plethora of similar glyphs depicting various outmoded pre-scientific theories. However, diagrams of this kind were not meant merely as allegories for intellectual speculation. Some of them are powerful magical images which invite us to walk within them; and in my experience this is certainly one of them. Indeed, I found that the diagram was actively seeking me out, rather than me going looking for it!  

This occurred in the first instance when I was conducting a series of workshops in 1991 at a very powerful site in the city of Bath in southern England close to the hot springs. Bath is a spa town to which people have gone for the healing waters, certainly since Roman times (when its name was Aquae Sulis) and probably long before that.

With a small group I commenced a spontaneous visualisation exercise based upon the site as it might originally have been, a marshy stream through a gorge, full of beech trees, where an ancient swine herd took his pigs to feed off their favourite food, the beech masts. No ordinary swine, I should say, for these creatures are sacred to the goddess, just as the swine herd is a figure for her priest, sometimes seen as Merlin, but in this location particularly associated with the ancient King Bladud, legendary guardian of the site, who had some reputation as a magician.

            However, to my surprise, no sooner had this ancient symbolism been evoked, than it kept on being overlaid with a more recent construct. This was a circular temple containing seven free standing pillars, each one dedicated to one of the Roman gods. So as this seemed to be the way the powers concerned wished to play, I went along with it.

            The site of this temple seemed to be centrally placed where a spring came up out of the ground, from whence it ran out of the doorway to form a stream. The gods, a sculptured head of whom was placed upon each pillar, were the conventional Roman ones associated with the seven traditional planets, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. There was also an overall awareness of the goddess of the Earth, whose priestess tended a fire upon a stand over the spring in the centre. The roof of the temple curved over in a dome but was open at the top, and within the open circle a number of doves disported. The experience for the group at this time was of approaching each pillar in turn whereupon the god or goddess in question would come alive and provide a very living contact.

            This was not too far distant from the intention of this particular workshop, which was upon dynamics of the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, but a totally unexpected "earthing" of this intention came about. In the first instance this was the literal falling into my hands, from an overloaded shelf, of a newly published book by R.J.Stewart, The Way of Merlin. And in particular a chapter on "Spring and Tree" caught my eye. This claimed that trees, springs and caves are power points that tap into the energies of the land, and then into other dimensions altogether. In practical pursuit of this, advice was given on how to find a personal sacred tree and sacred spring.

            However, much as I respect the works of my friend Stewart, I had no immediate need of such advice, for the group synchronously came up with finds of their own. One was a massive chestnut tree that completely dominated a nearby urban square, and about which they all linked hands, somewhat to the intrigued amusement of the foreign tourists.  The other was a local well, a seventeenth century public bath, that after being closed for some years, had just been temporarily re-opened, and was watched over by a self appointed guardian, who had swum there as a child, and was protesting against plans for its destruction. By mutual acclaim we went as a party to visit it.

            To my surprise the well turned out to be a circular pool, surrounded by a circular wall, open at the top, with bases for pillars around its edge, reminiscent of the temple that had just been impinging upon my consciousness.

            It had a plaque on the outside saying it had been constructed to commemorate the birth of a son to Queen Mary in 1688. Later research revealed this to be the queen of King James II, who within months was ousted from the throne in what is still referred to as the Glorious Revolution. The child in question, James Francis Edward, became the Old Pretender, and father of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Roman Catholic claimants to the Protestant throne and figureheads for the Jacobite cause.

It is called the Cross Bath and is still standing, having been re-opened as part of a smart new spa. The current building is Georgian but it directly replaced an earlier building which had been built in 1688 to commemorate Queen Mary, since she gave birth exactly nine months after bathing there.

During the 20th century it was used as a public swimming pool until somebody died from water-borne meningitis in 1970 and the place was shut down. It then stood derelict and fell into disrepair, along with much of the surrounding area, and was so dilapidated it was under threat of complete redevelopment.  Thus our meeting  someone protesting against its demise.  Anyhow, the building was rescued and restored and has since been refurbished  on the inside with a new pool, but still with the open roof.

It is no wonder it has a buzz to it though, because it has a remarkable history. It takes its waters from one of the hot springs and has been in use from ancient times in one form or another. It was a fashionable place for socialites in Bath's heyday but in earlier times it belonged to the medieval St John's Hospital and was used as a healing spa, and the body of St Aldhelm is said to have rested there in 709 on its way to burial in Malmesbury.