Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Best of 2010 Occult Fiction

Anthony Duncan: Faversham’s Dream         ISBN 978-1-908011-11-4

Rebecca Wilby: In Different Skies               ISBN 978-1-908011-02-2

Margaret Lumley Brown: Both Sides of the Door        ISBN 978-1-909011-37-4

Alan Richardson: On Winsley Hill               ISBN 978-1-908011-00-8

For all that much of Dion Fortune’s practical teaching, (that which in the secrecy of her times she did not care to put into textbooks) is to be found in her novels there is often a reluctance to seek knowledge and wisdom in occult fiction – yet this is maybe the best place to look for it. Provided of course that the authors concerned are experienced at first hand and know what they are talking about.

The current year has seen the publication, via Skylight Press, of no less than four examples that can teach you more what occultism is all about, than umpteen textbooks. And highly entertaining as well!

The key to all this is being true to life. What otherworld experiences really are – albeit put into an apparent fictional context with the benefit of an intriguing story line upon which the facts of experience can be strung. There has been a tremendous surge of interest in my own autobiography I Called It Magic showing that a record of practical experience is of consuming interest. With this in mind, let me draw attention to the fact that all four of the authors mentioned above feature within the story of my magical life. And they all know what they are talking about.

Anthony Duncan features in a whole chapter, Rebecca Wilby is a major player in a couple of others, Margaret Lumley Brown played an important role in my early initiatory experiences, and Alan Richardson gives personal witness of what he experienced at one of my major Hawkwood workshops.

With this in mind, you will be missing a great opportunity if you do not make it your business to read something of what they have had to say in fictional form – for all is soundly based upon fact.

Anthony Duncan’s Faversham’s Dream exemplifies a great deal of what I have experienced in my own magical life in the resonance of historical occurrences with events and impressions in present time. Sparked by coincidental (!?) – (how often does so-called coincidence play an important part in esoteric experience!?) – acquisition of a volume of poems by a minor 19th century poet John Faversham discovers that its author had previously lived in the same old house as himself – and as a consequence of house and book of poems coming together begins to experience the same obsessive dream. Following up on this he discovers vivid “place memories” in the local area, rooted in highly emotive events in the 16th century.

Margaret Lumley Brown’s Both Sides of the Door is a fictionalised account of real happenings that occurred to her when as a young woman after a casual experiment in table-turning in what turned out to be a very haunted house which had once been an opium den and bordello situated close to the Tyburn, the former site of public executions in the west end of London. It is memoir of a terrifying event that developed into full blown poltergeist manifestation, with writing appearing on window blinds and materialisations in various disturbing forms. Originally privately published in 1918 this re-issue includes articles by myself and Rebecca Wilby on the life and work of Margaret Lumley Brown and a history of the locations involved.

Rebecca Wilby’s In Different Skies brings to life much of her own experience in formulating the redemptive magical work concerned with the amelioration of the inner world suffering of victims of war as described in the latter part of my autobiography. On a visit to Tewkesbury Abbey the heroine is startled to begin to recover memories – someone else’s memories – of the 1st World War trenches. These involuntary glimpses into the life of a lost soldier open up a visionary world and search across the fields of Flanders for the historical truth behind the vision. This provides another viewpoint on some important modern practical esoteric work as briefly described in I Called It Magic and also in the new expanded edition of The Abbey Papers and the play-script This Wretched Splendour also published by Skylight.

Alan Richardson’s On Winsley Hill is set on a very real location on a plateau near Bath, and is the moving story of Rosie Chant, a psychically gifted young farm worker aged 17 in 1908 who can pick up impressions from objects and places, and thus assists a visiting American folklorist in his research into the era of standing stones, long barrows and sacred wells. Nor does she complain when he uses her in other ways. As a biographer of various major figures on the modern occult scene Alan Richardson’s background knowledge in this finely observed tale provides a great deal of insight into psychic and psychological dynamics as well as human nature in general. It is also a vivid evocation of the west country world of Rosie’s youth culminating in a profoundly moving magical conclusion in the present day when she climbs the ancient site on the occasion of her 100th birthday!

All four of these books are heartily recommended, not only as means of personal instruction and entertaining but as highly suitable and inexpensive seasonal or birthday gifts to your friends. A means of expanding insights all round into the inner worlds behind physical appearances.