Monday, May 03, 2010

An Anthology of Occult Wisdom

A gem of a little book has just come my way. Although when I say little in fact it runs to over 200 pages. And when I say gem, it is rather a casket of gems. It contains items from the archives of the Servants of the Light including material not only from their Director of Studies Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, but from her teacher Walter Ernest Butler and his teacher Robert King.

Dolores, who in her globe trotting over the past forty years speaks from a lot of experience in meeting students, provides some salutary guidance on Common Sense and Glamour in Occult Work and wise words on The Unreserved Dedication which every esoteric wannabe ought to take to heart. For those seeking some immediate experience she gives practical instruction on how to make a set of rune stones, and for those really dedicated, an illustrated guide on how to construct a magical temple. This runs all the way from finding a location, choosing the d├ęcor and colours, making pillars, banners and lights, dressing the altar, and then how to consecrate and act appropriately within it. And for any who may be called upon to participate in group ritual work she provides detailed advice on what is expected of the Scribe, the Messenger, the Guardian of the Lights, the Thurifer, the Guardian of the Lodge, the Seer, the Ceremonarius and the Officers (or Upholders of Power) of the Quarters. Altogether an invaluable handbook on the subject.

“Of the forming of groups there is no end…” writes W. E. Butler, and as one who had experience of many, from the Theosophical Society to the Society of the Inner Light, he provides excellent instruction Concerning Contacts, Control and Communication and on The Astral Light and The Sphere of Light, and the publishers have done sterling work in rescuing and transcribing old lecture tapes on The Implications of Exorcism and The Etheric Body. Ernest Butler’s great gift as a teacher was to combine deep theoretical knowledge with examples of practical experience, and in this selection of material he provides an excellent guide for any who are confused by the loose use of terms such as “etheric” and “astral” in occult literature.

But even Ernest Butler needed to learn from someone. I know from personal conversation with him how much he felt he owed to his teacher Robert King (1869-1954). King was an occultist and mystic of enormous experience, well known as a lecturer, and from 1909 to 1913 principal medium and psychic for a leading spiritualist group. He also became an auxiliary bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church, from which he resigned in 1921 – probably for much the same reasons that Dion Fortune and Rudolf Steiner distanced themselves from the Theosophical Society at around this time.

Very much a “hands on” practical occultist he supervised Ernest Butler’s first unique experience of etheric projection, and he was called in to assist Margaret Lumley Brown when she got into a spot of bother in 1913, as recorded in my study of this great psychic in Pythoness. He is represented here by teaching on Arthurian, Grail and Merlin archetypes, and in Guarding Merlin’s Enclosure describes group work in defence of the inner side of the nation – a theme with which Dion Fortune was also later concerned, as recorded in the currently somewhat scarce Dion Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain.

As if all this were not enough an Appendix on Dr W J Kilner’s experiments in photographing the human aura completes this Anthology, complete with diagrams, as reported in The New York Times of February 5th 1911.

So, all in all, a book to be highly recommended, along with its publishers, the miniscule Datura Press, and who are well worth looking up for details of further gems on the way. This latest book of theirs is described as Volume 2 of what is intended as a series. I eagerly await my ordered copy of Volume 1 to see if it matches up to this one, and look forward optimistically to what future volumes may bring.