Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ronald Heaver & the Purifying Fire

In The Hidden Adept & the Inward Vision R.J.Stewart has produced the story (as far as it is known) of Ronald Heaver, a remarkable adept closely associated with Glastonbury and the Garden Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in Jerusalem. A whole generation of spiritual teachers were influenced or inspired by him – including Peter and Eileen Caddy, founders of the Findhorn Community, Sir George Trevelyan founder of the Wrekin Trust, Ruth Nesfield-Cookson, latterly of Hawkwood College , David Spangler, and even, quite remarkably, William G Gray, not one to be easily impressed, but who regarded him almost with awe and remarked that he was “one of the Old Ones” .

Born in London in1900 Ronald Heaver was sent to a preparatory school at Taunton in Somerset where on half-day holidays he liked to climb a local hill from which Glastonbury Tor could be seen fifteen miles away. The distant view of the Tor held an irresistible fascination for him, although a decade was to pass before he learned about the legend of Joseph of Arimathea founding the first Christian church there. Nor could he foresee the time when he would be intimately concerned with what is known as the Garden of Joseph of Arimathea in Jerusalem.

At the age of sixteen, after one of his brothers was killed in the Battle of the Somme, he succeeded in “wangling himself” under-age into the Royal Naval Air Service, and after only three and a quarter hours of dual instruction made his first solo flight. Joining a squadron in France, his Sopwith Camel was shot down in a dog fight with the von Richthofen “flying circus” and he crashed over enemy lines. Despite being a target for machine gun fire he emerged from the wreckage unscathed apart from a badly sprained leg, although the shock to his spine was to cause bouts of paralysis in later life.

He was a prisoner of war until 1919 and then after demobilisation experienced a spiritual transformation whilst walking over Westminster Bridge – resonant with Wordsworth’s poetic lines inspired by the same location in 1802: “Earth has not anything to show more fair…” It had him exclaiming “All this is new. I have never seen life through these eyes before…” and led a few weeks later to him realising the force of the words of St Paul in the second epistle to the Corinthians: “He that is in Christ Jesus is a new creature. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.”

He was particularly struck by the principle that a spiritual experience would happen first, and necessary confirmation follow afterwards, a principle that he held to in later life with visitors to his Sanctuary of Avalon. No prior instruction was given but visitors were simply invited to sit there in silence for a short time and then debriefed on what they had experienced. A typical experience was of being in a vast interior space apparently extending to infinity in a deep silence that was a living presence in itself.

But Ronald Heaver was in for a shattering experience of a different nature, seven years after the one on Westminster Bridge. One which seemed to imply a close attachment to the group soul of the nation. On May 3rd 1926 newspapers came out with headlines about the General Strike – “Last night paralysis swept over the country!”. Coincident with this he became completely paralysed himself and was given only 48 hours to live.

However he did survive, only to be told he would never walk again, but he simply refused to accept this, in light of the Biblical assurance that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength and “mount up with wings like eagles.” And although under orthodox medical treatment he made no progress at all, after he rejected it he progressed by his own methods to a remarkable recovery. Within two years he was driving a car to Barcelona and back to prove that he had really regained personal independence.

Nine years after his paralysis, at the age of 35, he became unexpectedly appointed to an executive position in the British Israelite movement, which led to his involvement in negotiations to preserve the site in Jerusalem discovered by General Gordon who claimed it to be the Garden of Joseph of Arimathea and thus true site of the Holy Sepulchre.

All this led to a wide sector of spiritually related activities in which Ronald Heaver became involved, central to which appears to have been a thaumaturgical talisman – traditionally associated with Glastonbury and Joseph of Arimathea – that had been in the possession of the Order of Essenes – and that Ronald Heaver was empowered to bury at the site of the Garden Tomb, where it remained for 21 years until, by a series of coincidences, returning to England in 1955. The sequence of synchronicities involved make this strange tale quite compelling, and R.J.Stewart’s book provides as much supporting testimony as is known - including Heaver’s own account.

More intriguing still is a connection with an investigation of telluric energy sources in pre-war Austria at much the same time, in which Heaver also became involved. This was a subject of clandestine interest to the great powers as clouds of war were beginning to gather, the traces of which are enmeshed in a complex web of military intelligence, alternative science, alchemy, and spiritual intention. Recently discovered coded telegrams in the Austrian national archive may yet throw some light on all this.

That there were also deep spiritual matters involved is suggested by Heaver’s initiative to set up National Days of Prayer during the 2nd World War. He really had quite extraordinary contacts in government and even royal circles. And the War was arguably a fundamental struggle against “spiritual wickedness in high places” beyond the perceptions of most human politicians and power brokers involved.

In the late 1950’s he set up house at Castle House, Keinton Mandeville, in Somerset, midway between Cadbury, a traditional site for King Arthur’s Camelot, and Glastonbury. Here, with his close associate Polly Wood, he set up a “Sanctuary of Avalon”, with the declared intention that its spiritual influence was to counter “nuclear Armageddon” – a very real threat in the Cold War at that time.

Sparsely furnished, with just an altar and a few chairs, the place held no more than ten or twelve people and was dedicated on St Michael’s Day 1960 to Silence and the Power of the Divine Name. It was said to have been constructed in silence and over the years, as no word was ever spoken therein, the spiritual power that built up was tremendous. A hint of the nature of the power that filled the Sanctuary is carved on Ronald Heaver’s gravestone in the churchyard at Keinton Mandeville: Aesch Mezareph - or the Purifying Fire. Aesch meaning “fire” and Mezareph a transformation through purification within an enclosed or sealed vessel.

The process in the sanctuary was described simply as “the means whereby people may find their spiritual path for themselves.” The discovery was made by sitting in silence there for a few minutes, which could directly inspire, empower and transform an individual, even if with little or no former spiritual or esoteric experience. A radiant power of lucid inspiring authority brought them swiftly into a clarity that could endure subtly over a long time.

R.J.Stewart avers that his own visits as a young man in his twenties substantially changed the course of his life. And that receiving what he describes as a Fire Temple initiation there in 1980, (the year of the adept’s death), he inherited, with his partner Anastacia, a spiritual partnership that was started by Ronald Heaver and Polly Wood, that mediates the powers of a new Sanctuary of Avalon via physical sanctuaries in quiet locations in Britain, America and elsewhere.

A.R.Heaver occasionally made critical remarks about what he regarded as outmoded forms of occultism and magic. In his view, a true “New Age” had no need of such redundant trappings, and he was certainly capable of powerful invocatory work on his own terms. It is thus somewhat intriguing to learn that a number of British occultists, including the contentious and redoubtable W.G.Gray, much involved with such trappings, visited him with harmonious accord.

As a former colleague and publisher of W.G.Gray myself, from whom I learned a great deal, and as one who has devoted a life time to work of a similar nature, either with my own group or in public workshops or with the Society of the Inner Light, I do not feel that the traditional magical arts are necessarily redundant, although ever capable of revision and development. One of which I think is a distinction between Kabbalah and Qabalah, the original Jewish mystical tradition and that tradition as modified by modern Gentile esotericists. There is room for both of course, and Heaver was evidently an adept at the former.

My old sparring partner over forty years, the Reverend Anthony Duncan, (1930-2003), poet, mystic and shepherd of souls, made a crucial distinction I think in differentiating between “inner planes” and “inner space”. The first the “psychic nuts and bolts” of the created world, the second the Void within the Mind of God in which the created universe is projected. In modern Qabalistic theory this is familiar as the Ain Soph Aur – the Limitless Light, which it is perfectly possible to contact without having to scramble up all the Spheres in between in a complex ladder of initiation. These few lines by Anthony Duncan, and which I think might be endorsed by Ronald Heaver, show the way forward, banal as it may seem.

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!”

The Hidden Adept & The Inward Vision – the Story of Ronald Heaver, Polly Wood and the Sanctuary of Avalon by R.J.Stewart is published by R.J.Stewart Books, 2012.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Qabalistic Cube of Space and the Tarot

Many years ago, when I wrote A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism the sources for my material were my immediate predecessors, that is to say Dion Fortune and senior members of the Society of the Inner Light over the years. Back beyond them was published work by Israel Regardie and the pioneers of the Golden Dawn tradition since its inception in 1888, such as MacGregor Mathers, A.E.Waite, Dr Wynn Westcott, and the notorious if knowledgeable Aleister Crowley.

It was not until I showed a copy of my book to a clerical friend, the Rev. Anthony Duncan, that I was somewhat disconcerted when, fired with enthusiasm, he went back to earlier sources as expressed in Professor Gershom Scholem’s classic work Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.

This did not augur too well in light of Professor Scholem’s views on modern occultism, as expressed right from the start: “From the brilliant misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Alphonse Louis Constant, who has won fame under the pseudonym of Eliphas Levi, to the highly coloured humbug of Aleister Crowley and his followers, the most eccentric and fantastic statements have been produced purporting to be legitimate interpretations of Kabbalism. The time has come to reclaim this derelict area and to apply to it the strict standards of historical research.”

He did however have grudging appreciation for A.E.Waite whose The Secret Doctrine in Israel (later incorporated into his The Holy Kabbalah) he conceded did represent a serious attempt to analyse the symbolism of the Zohar – although marred by a sloppy grasp on facts of history and philology and, through being ignorant of Hebrew and Aramaic, unable to study the texts in the original.

The Zohar, or Book of Splendour, is the medieval book from which our familiar diagram of the Tree of Life springs. Written by a Spanish Jew, Moses de Leon, between about 1275 and 1305, it is extremely long, about 2400 pages in the original, only half of which are included in the standard five volume English translation.

It is a rambling story about an ancient holy man, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, wandering about Palestine in the 1st and 2nd centuries, conversing with his relations, friends and disciples about holy things – seeking direct knowledge of God through the holy books of the Torah – the first five books of our Old Testament.

As they considered the Torah to be, not only the word of God, but written in the language which God spoke, they were happy to take any sentence, phrase or even word as a starting point to weave the most bizarre sounding mystical speculations. Several pages are devoted simply to the first word of the holy text: Berashith – usually translated in our Bible as “in the beginning”. As Professor Scholem states, under the touch of Moses de Leon the most unpretentious verses of Scripture could acquire a most unexpected meaning.

But whatever may have seemed divine revelation to Moses de Leon I must confess has been impenetrable to me. Largely because there is a fundamental difference between the aims and assumptions of medieval Jewish Qabalists and those of modern Gentile occultists.

Yet despite Professor Scholem’s disapproval we should not be browbeaten into thinking that our Qabalistic house has been built on shifting sand. It is simply a case of having been built on a different part of the beach! And is solid enough in its own right. One man’s chalk is another man’s cheese – and vice versa.

Most occultists are not mystics, if we define the word mystic to mean one who seeks direct experience of, even divine identification with, God. As my mystical friend Anthony Duncan observed, most occultists are not seeking direct experience of the Creator, but rather knowledge and experience of what He has created. What we like to call the Inner Planes, the psychic and intuitive “nuts and bolts”of Creation, which is not far away from what some psychologists call the Collective Unconscious, or some occultists the Astral Light.

We prefer to seek how best to live and work in the City of God rather than take tea with the Architect. As characters on a Universal Stage we are seeking to learn our lines and play our parts as best we can, rather than interview the Playwright. (Even if the Playwright did, in Christian belief, provide a role for Himself – and a somewhat unpleasant if charitable one – in the event of the Divine Incarnation.)

From this closer definition of terms it could be argued that Dion Fortune’s “Mystical Qabalah” might have been better named. For it is Moses de Leon and his friends who are exponents of the Mystical Qabalah. Dion Fortune’s line of expertise might more accurately be termed the Philosophical, Psychological or even Magical Qabalah.

So it appears that Qabalistic mystics and occultists are playing a different game on the same pitch, marked out with the lines of the Tree of Life. And as far as Professor Scholem’s views are concerned, there is no reason to concede that we don’t know the rules. We are simply playing to different ones.

But it may be worth taking a brief look back through history to see just how and when the pitch was marked out. In which case three big names come to mind Abraham Abulafia, Moses de Leon and Isaac Luria. Not that, as in our own day, there were not umpteen small groups, each with their own agenda, doing their own thing. There are different facets to ancient Jewish Mystical Tradition as there are to the modern Western Mystery Tradition.

If we trace Qabalistic tradition back far enough back we find ourselves in Old Testament territory with visions such as that of Ezekiel. From such, Merkabah mysticism was derived, that is to say visions of the Throne of God, which, if regarded as mobile, could also become the Chariot of God. We have reflections of that today, at some considerable cultural remove, in the Tarot Trump of the Chariot and of a selection of other throned figures – Emperor, Empress, Hierophant, High Priestess, and the balancing figure of Justice.

Later the Qabalistic mystics turned to old esoteric literature, such as the Book of Enoch and descriptions of the hekhaloth (palaces or heavenly halls) through which the mystic must pass on the way to the Throne of Divine Glory. One interesting aspect of this that gels with modern esoteric experience, after the manner of R J Stewart’s UnderWorld Initiation, is that in almost all the later writings the visionary journey is called a “descent” rather than an ascent. But whatever the direction of journey, there is a parallel between this Jewish vision and the beliefs of the early Gnostics. The idea of the seven heavens through which the soul returns to its original home, either after death or in a state of ecstasy, is certainly very old and possibly universal.

After about 1200 A.D. Qabalists began to emerge as a distinct group in Jewish culture with considerable prominence in parts of Spain and southern France. An important figure to emerge was Abraham Abalufia (a kind of proto Christian Rosencreutz) born in Saragossa in 1240, who left home at the age of 20 and travelled through Syria and Palestine until, then as now, warlike disturbances drove him back to Europe to spend a wandering life expounding his doctrines. He was so convinced of the truth of these, that like Pico della Mirandola, a Christian Qabalist of a later age, he sought an audience with the Pope. As with Pico this almost cost him his life but he survived to continue wandering and writing prophetic works until disappearing from the scene in about 1291.

According to Abraham Abalufia, the only reliable guide was to be found in the Sepher Yetzirah, or Book of Formation, into the secrets of which he claimed to have been initiated. This is probably the oldest book of Qabalah, from the 1st or 2nd century A.D., thus pre-dating the Zohar and Abulafia himself by about a thousand years. Modern students of the Qabalah will be familiar with it through the Yetziratic Texts which are assigned to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and thence to the Paths and Spheres of the Tree of Life. They are considerably obscure, rather of the nature of works such as The Cosmic Doctrine that claim “to train the mind rather than to inform it”. And things not terribly helped by the existence of different translations, some of them via Latin on the way.

But if Hebrew is the language of God, then the Hebrew alphabet can, according to the Sepher Yetzirah, be seen to delineate symbolically the world of His creation. The 22 letters divide up into three types, 3 Mother letters, 7 Double letters, and 12 Single letters, which even on the most superficial reading provides us with the traditional Triune God, 7 planetary spheres, and the 12 zodiacal signs. However, rather than venturing into celestial spherical geometry after the fashion of The Cosmic Doctrine, the symbolic structure of the Sepher Yetzirah or Book of Formation is based upon the Cube of Space.

A cube is a figure with six faces, windows upon the four cardinal directions, plus the above and the below – and a point in the very centre – to which system the seven Double letters can be allocated. (A cube also happens to have twelve edges, to which can be allocated the twelve Single letters, a zodiacal framework to the planetary planes, but we will not over-complicate at this stage).

It is better at first to conceive the Cube floating in space. A space that can be described as an infinite sphere separated out from the Body of God, in order for creation to take place. (This formation of a Cosmic Space in which Creation could be formed, was a conception of a later Jewish Qabalist, Isaac Luria, in a doctrine known as the tsim-tsum, which is theologically important to bear in mind as it prevents us from falling into pantheism, and assuming that God and the Universe are one and the same.)

The sphere has what R.J.Stewart, in a slightly different set-up, has described as two “sensitive points”, one above and one below, which in our system link the Sphere to its Creator. In the Hebrew alphabet these two sensitive points are allocated to Aleph above, and Shin below, with Mem making up the space within the sphere.

In Qabalistic letter symbolism Aleph corresponds to Air, Mem to Water, and Shin to Fire. These are Cosmic rather than Elemental elements. Air (Aleph) relates to the breath of the Holy Spirit upon the waters (Mem) of creation, with the whole thing sustained by cosmic fire (Shin).

I do not propose to enter into any detailed description of the Cube, apart from the six sides and the seventh central point. Relevant diagrams can be found in the Upper Room chapter of my book Experience of the Inner Worlds. Suffice to say that if we regard our Upper Room, or magical Temple, or Dr Who-type Tardis vehicle, in Hebrew alphabetic terms, we will have Daleth in the East, Resh in the South, Kaph in the West, Peh in the North, Beth above and Gimel below, with Tau in the centre.

Now the Jews had their own names and images for each of the letters, but in the interests of modern magical practice and speculation I propose to take a leaf from Eliphas Levi’s book, and provide Tarot Trump images for each of them – with the exception that I shall use the Golden Dawn system rather than the one that Levi proposed in his published works.

So if we look up our tables of correspondence we can see ourselves going into a temple in which we find facing us in the East the fruitful life giving figure of the Empress, with to the South the beneficent figure of the Sun, in the West the figure of Fortuna turning her wheel of fate and destiny, and in the North the Lightning Struck Tower. Above us looking down is the figure of the Magician, overseeing all, and beneath us the powers of the High Priestess, while in the centre point is the dancing hermaphroditic figure of the Universe.

I have found this a structure well worth visualising and meditating upon, and I welcome others to try the same, if they have the time and inclination. To my mind, sitting in the West places you with the background of life in the world, (Fortuna), with the bright powers of nature before you in the East, (Empress), with warmth and light to the South (Sun) and darkness and wisdom to the North (the Tower, which I like to see illustrating divine light, power and wisdom striking down to break up old forms against a dark background of the night sky, with stars). You need to feel fairly free to create your own realisations and realities in this kind of temple work.

This is simply a beginning. The whole thing can be further fine tuned by taking account of the images allocated to the four edges that surround each directional face. But this is by no means essential, and it is best to start with the simple structure, and then see where it leads you. Using such a method as this should instruct you and give practice in formulating your own more cosmic interpretation of the archetypal Tarot images and Temple directions and power points.

Extending the method to the Cosmic Sphere that encompasses the Cube (a question of “sphere-ing the cube” rather than the traditional two-dimensional “squaring the circle”) in the Cosmic Above we have the Fool – as the representative of God Transcendent contemplating the work of creation – and below, the Last Judgement which speaks of the Last Days when God ends the creation in time and space as we know it and draws it back into the Uncreate Limitless Light – whilst within the Sphere is the principle of God Immanent (as opposed to Transcendent) in the archetype of the Hanged Man.

Within the Cosmic Sphere is our Magical Temple which has its own traditional dynamics of time and directions in space. The proof of any pudding is in the eating rather than recipe, and a lot depends upon the individual who is doing the cooking, so I will say now more, but leave it to individuals to try their own orientation in the Cube along the lines of traditional Tarot Trump images

East – Empress    
South - Sun
West - Fortuna
North - Tower
Above - Magician
Below - Priestess
Centre - Universe
South-East – Hierophant   
South-West - Justice
North-West - Death
North-East - Emperor
East-Above - Lovers
East-Below - Chariot
South-Above - Star
South-Below - Moon
West-Above – Temperance
West-Below – Devil         
North-Above – Strength     
North-Below – Hermit

Sphere Upper Divine Point – Fool
Sphere Lower Divine Point - Last Judgment
Sphere Inner Creative Space - Hanged Man

[This article appeared in LYRA - Avalon Group Journal - Samhain 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mysticism and Magic

Whether or not the year 2012 sees the end of the world it also happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of completing my first book, A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism.

Largely based upon knowledge papers of the Society of the Inner Light, I figured at the time that it might have gone some way to explaining God, the Universe and Everything. However, something of its limitations were brought home to me quite soon afterwards when I struck up the acquaintance of Anthony Duncan, who opened my eyes to a number of things I had not even thought of.

We first met after we had independently arrived to live in Tewkesbury, a historic Gloucestershire market town between the Cotswold and the Malvern Hills, at the confluence of the Rivers Avon and Severn. He, fresh out of theological college, had been inducted as a curate at the abbey in his first clerical appointment, whilst I arrived soon after from London to help set up Helios Book Service. As I was looking over the bookstall in Tewkesbury Abbey one day, I saw amongst the parish magazines and devotional works a slim book of poetry, written by the new curate. Whilst not particularly interested in occasional verse by local clergy, a peep inside made me sit up and take notice.

Entitled Elmbury Abbey, it struck me that its author was indeed “fey, so they say” or what I would have more bluntly called unusually psychic. It began:

I am fey, so they say;

I have seen the walking dead

hurry to Mass on a weekday morning.

I have heard the doors go bang

and I have heard their footsteps hurrying.

I have heard the solemn bell’s wild clang;

the long, clear call from the tower.

And another evocative piece, entitled Magic, confirmed my own impressions about this very evocative Abbey.

A thin place this,

where treads my foot more silently;

there is a magic here

which makes that dark and nail-studded door

that locks dimension from my consciousness

lean on its bolts in a sudden breeze

and stir my vapid air.

There is a thinness in this place,

translucent to my senses;

sensing I know not what

save that I’m conscious of my hair

and that I breathe, that I can hear

the sound that silence makes

and know a warmth about my face;

and that I walk more slowly home.

Obviously the author of this stuff seemed somewhat out of the usual run of Church of England ministers. And indeed so it proved. He had been an army captain who had seen service in Germany and the Far East – where he had picked up an interest in oriental philosophy and religions – prior to getting a call at the age of 30 to resign his commission, go to theological college, and become ordained in the Church of England.

I felt it might be useful to get to know this gentleman, enrolled into his confirmation classes and lost no time in presenting him with a copy of my book on the Qabalah, just to show that this was not going to be an entirely one way conversation. The resulting deep and lively dialogue lasted for a number of years, and indeed for the rest of our lives.

He turned out to be highly impressed with what he read in my book, and opined that the Qabalah was “a very remarkable and all-embracing pattern of symbolisms and archetypes” and “a key which in thoughtful hands can unlock a great many doors which are usually closed to man’s understanding.” He regretted that is was not more widely known about, and set to writing a book of his own, entitled The Christ, Psychotherapy & Magic, (subtitled A Christian Appreciation of Occultism), about which a critic in The Guardian newspaper wrote: “Now at last 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'.”

Not that he showed glowing approval to everything he read in A Practical Guide to Occult Symbolism or Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah. For Anthony Duncan was not only a natural psychic, but theologically well informed, and also a mystic as well. And in the nicest possible way he demonstrated that there were a number of assumptions that both Dion Fortune and I had taken for granted that did not stand up to analysis when compared to original Jewish Qabalistic mysticism or Rosicrucian writers such as Robert Fludd. That there is a divide between (a) the Tree of Life as mystical approach to God, (b) the Tree of Life as outline of human psychology, and (c) the Tree of Life as examination of the inner mechanisms of the material world – or “the nuts and bolts of the inner side of Creation” as he liked to put it.

This is not the place to go into all of this. It took the two of us some years to thresh it all out, which saw me writing another book taking account of his observations – Experience of the Inner Worlds – subsequently used as a text for training my students over the years, backed up with A History of White Magic for the general public. For his part he courageously wrote a theological work The Priesthood of Man (Bles 1973) putting forward the possibility of a number of esoteric teachings – such as mediumship and reincarnation – being compatible with Christian belief. This caused some distressed squawks from the Church Times – just as my own revisions caused distressed squawks from various sections of the esoteric establishment.

Once he retired, Tony Duncan felt free to write a series of perceptive books: The Way of Transcendence, A New Heaven and a New Earth, The Forgotten Faith (on Celtic Christianity) and The Tao of Christ (a Christian’s reading of Laozi) in addition to his earlier essay in mysticism The Lord of the Dance and remarkable angelic dialogue The Sword in the Sun.

However all ceased in 2003, when his heart just suddenly stopped beating. Not a bad way to go, if a considerable shock to those he left behind. Nonetheless there remains a rich heritage of manuscript work, which I have recently been going through to see what can usefully be published. Amongst which was this revealing little essay Away with the Faeries that aptly sums up the sensitivity and integrity as well as fundamental orthodoxy of the man.


AWAY WITH THE FAERIES [ by Anthony Duncan]

There are fairies at the bottom of my garden. To be truthful, I am uncertain as to the fairy population in the tiny garden of my present semi-detached villa, brick-built and bow-windowed in the best fashion of the 1930’s. I have no doubt, however, that fairies abounded in the much bigger and much wider gardens of the various country Vicarages and Rectories which it has been my privilege to occupy over the years.

That the garden of Parkend Vicarage in the Forest of Dean was thickly populated I have no doubt whatever, but I was then insensitive to the plane upon which the fairy kingdoms operate. It was in the garden of Highnam Rectory that I entered into, not only an awareness of this segment of Earthly reality, but also a conscious, courteous – even affectionate – “modus vivendi” with my resident fairy population. I remember them most kindly; we had become friends.

For a period of some three of four years my range of perception was extended to include periodic encounters with the world of Faerie. This included other, Elemental spirits – entities, call them what you will – and this latter sensitivity to spirits of Earth, Air, Water and Fire was not always comfortable. Happily, and importantly, this extension of perception was a thing given and by no means sought. Looking back upon that period of my life I clearly recognise it as both appropriate to the time and purposeful in terms of my own becoming.

Gifts of extended perception are granted, I believe, on a “need to know” basis. I clearly had a need to know and, above all, a need to have compassion and understanding for that which I was encountering. To encounter with the head only is to fall into delusions of “esoteric knowledge” with all its ego inflating and corrupting possibilities.

To encounter with both heart and mind is to be open to the learning of compassion and understanding. Affection and respect are two constituents of love, without which encounters with the worlds of Elementals and of Faerie can fast degenerate into exercises in manipulative magic.

The extension of my perception into the world of Faerie had another purpose, as I now understand it. I was to learn a measure of humility. Humility has been aptly described as the acceptance of Reality, a thing very difficult for mortal men and women. In this case the lesson in humility involved me in abandoning for good any last trace of that rationalistic arrogance which will not accept anything other than itself and which denies all possibility of existence to other creatures on other levels or planes of being.

To be truthful, I had never had serious difficulties in accepting the possibility of Faerie, but now was obliged to face this part of reality fairly and squarely and take it into both my mind and my heart. I then had to learn to mind my own business all over again, for Faerie is its own business, not mine.

A further dimension of humility that I was now obliged to learn was the clear sight and understanding of that most unfaithful folly of all for any Christian man or woman: the arbitrary consigning of the whole intuitive and perceptive realm to darkness, as if it were exclusively the province of “the devil and his angels.”

This is rationalistic arrogance gone mad, decked out with all the trappings of religiosity. Its underlying dynamic is not Faith but fear, and fear is the denial of love and of the reality of the love of God.

The consignment of the human intuitive faculty to the realms of darkness adds up to a fifty-per-cent denial of the Incarnation!

The world of Faery did me a great service. I learned, fairly quickly, that affection and respect breach great walls of mutual apprehension and uncertainty. Having learned this I then discovered that affection and respect are mutually generating. Having made this discovery the world of Faerie faded from my field of perception and has never returned to it. But I acknowledge its reality and its presence all around me. I shall not forget it.

On the face of things, an encounter such as this is disturbing. It challenges fixed preconceptions and offends all sorts of comfortable conventions and sensibilities. Rejection and disbelief are the expected lot of anyone who admits to such conventional world-view-threatening encounters.

The whole of life is affected by such an encounter in that boundaries of possibility are extended, the potential of things is immeasurably increased and one’s former, comfortably conformist way of life seems increasingly two-dimensional and impossible of continued habitation.

The ensuing temptation is to go in search of other excitements, to extend one’s own boundaries of perception. This is a temptation indeed and is most decidedly to be resisted, for these extensions of perception are given, not gone-after. All that is required, within the context of a disciplined inner life, is the disposition to accept what is given gratefully and to respond to it with respect and affection.

Faery having opened the floodgates, albeit with gentle restraint, my field of perception began, slowly but inexorably, to widen. In retrospect it seems clear that I was to some degree prepared in advance for each new encounter and I have come to regard the whole business as being of the essence of that deeper Vocation which is the purpose of my life on this Earth.

Whatever the encounter, whatever its challenges to both reason and presuppositions, however great the initial surprise, once confronted with the Cross and with the Holy Name, all finally responded to that fundamental approach of one creature of God to another – respect and affection.

I say all? No, not quite all; but upon that which retreats in terror of the Holy Name and cringes at the sign of the Cross and which is wholly alien both to affection and respect, I will not waste good paper and ink.

Yet this too is of The Mystery* and The Mystery alone disposes in ways beyond our understanding, holding out always – so I am persuaded – the possibilities of forgiveness, and of restoration, affection and respect.


*Tony Duncan found it useful to use the term “The Mystery” as a alternative to the over used (and abused) term – God. The Christ, Psychotherapy & Magic has recently been reissued by Skylight Press, along with his novel Faversham’s Dream – describing a psychic porthole between 16th and 20th centuries.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

New thoughts on the Tarot and Glastonbury

Latest of my new editions being put out by Skylight Press is TAROT & MAGIC – THE TREASURE HOUSE OF IMAGES – a book which came out of a number of workshops I did in the late 80’s and is now supplemented by a further six chapters on The Mystical Tree of the Tarot; Images and Number in the Lesser Arcana; the Fourfold Structure of the Greater Arcana; a Narrative Approach to the Lesser Arcana, Preparation for Divination; and Divinatory Methods. This just about sums up everything I have had to say about the Tarot since writing my Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism some fifty years ago. How time flies when you’re having fun!

Also of note is a book just published by an old colleague and student of mine, Coleston Brown, former principal of Sun Chalice books in the USA. SECRETS OF A FAERY LANDSCAPE throws new light on the Glastonbury Zodiac which he reckons might better be termed the Somerset Faery Ring on account of the faery landscape being a place that merges the energies of the deep earth and shining stars, empowering the whole area. Lots of ground maps and star maps to ponder over. [ISBN 9780986591228 – Green Fire Publishing]

Whether we love it or loath it, Glastonbury plays an important role in the esoteric traditions of Britain and I append here some of my recent thoughts about it, commissioned by Michael Howard in whose excellent veteran journal of witchcraft, paganism and folklore, “The Cauldron”, (established 1976!), it recently appeared.

The Different Faces of Glastonbury or The Myth of the Loathly Damsel

The first time I saw Glastonbury, as I have recorded in my esoteric autobiography I Called It Magic, was as a romantic young RAF corporal astride my motorbike looking down at the Tor from the Shepton Mallet road, in 1953, imagining myself to be some kind of knight errant. A view, as I said “once seen, never forgotten”.

I came to know it better, as indeed I came to know myself better, over the years – but in both cases no easy answers are forthcoming. We are all of us, more complicated creatures than we easily realise, and so is a sacred site and west country town like Glastonbury.

Indeed, at times I have been led to think, that if this is “the holiest earth in England” I would hate to see the tackiest! Although I suppose it depends upon how deep one wants to delve.

On the surface show, the last time I was in Glastonbury attending a spiritual event, as we debouched from our high minded gathering I heard a local resident referring to our like as “the scum” that besmirched his fair town. And I suppose he had a point. I am old enough to recall the time when it had more the ambience of a charming west country backwater without the pervading atmosphere of joss sticks and spliffs. Although even in the 1960’s it was not uncommon to see signs up at public house doors – “No Hippies!” The hippies have I suppose now come and gone but have nonetheless left, I suppose, a kind of cultural imprint of sorts.

Not of course that the place was not always considered a little bit “odd”. For the upside of that, one can do hardly do better than consult Peter Benham’s excellent book The Avalonians. And this goes back to the 1920’s and even further – although in those days they were perhaps a little more genteel about it.

As far as Avalonians go, I have to say my own particular esoteric mentor, Dion Fortune, was something of a late comer. She fell in love with the place, put down roots at the foot of the Tor, and wrote a virtual love letter about the place, somewhat inaccurate in parts as love letters tend to be, but nonetheless moving, published in 1934 as Avalon of the Heart. She certainly mixed a heady cocktail out of the place with evocations of Merlin, the Holy Grail, the Celtic saints, Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Thorn, the Abbey, the Tor, Chalice Well, King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, even the lost continent of Atlantis.

And she demonstrated an early exercise of her psychic faculties in company with Bligh Bond at the Autumnal Equinox of 1921 with a paper that became the core of inner work with her Fraternity for many years. That there was an unbroken line of descent of spiritual power connecting directly with the elemental powers of the soil, in which are the roots of the soul of the nation, that is to say, of those who inhabit the land. And that which was noble in the pagan was carried on into Christian times. Head in London, heart in Glastonbury was how she tended to express this in her practical work, with headquarters in Bayswater and hightailing it down the Great West Road, possibly in the side car of Thomas Loveday’s motorbike, to her chalet at the foot of the Tor, where she wrote amongst other things, her magnum opus The Mystical Qabalah and supporting novels.

In her capacious mind there was no great divide between the pagan and the Christian, which she felt confirmed at Whitsun in 1926 when a spiral power had them all spontaneously dancing on the Tor along with an unequivocal call from the Elemental kingdoms “Come from the depths of your Elemental Being and lighten our darkness – Come in the name of the White Christ and the Hosts of the Elements.” Just what was meant by the “White Christ” – who apparently entered the Underworld to preach to the Elemental Kingdoms during the first Easter – has recently been further explored by Wendy Berg in Red Tree, White Tree (Skylight Press 2011) along with the current revival of interest in the faery tradition. Married up to the symbolic objects allegedly brought to Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea. Red and white cruets that have some connection with the Grail tradition and other weapons of Arthurian tradition which, like Excalibur, originally came from faery sources – otherwise called the Lake. (Odd that Glastonbury was pre-historically a lake village!) Powers that originally came from the faery world being duly returned to it.

There are obviously deep matters here that tend to go rather deeper into magical and mystical territory than is commonly supposed. What we might regard as bubbling away at the bottom of the cauldron. Although the superficial view may only see the scum that floats on the surface.

This at times can have its amusing and disconcerting side. I recall a visit to Glastonbury to show some Greek friends over the Tor, which happened to coincide with an official religious ceremony of sorts. This was accompanied by holy music blaring from loud speakers, along with the unusual sight of nuns scurrying up and down the Tor, rather as if an ant hill had been disturbed. And one was reminded that the orthodox religious like to make a claim on the place that is every bit as important as the neo-pagan or the esoteric.

The whole situation was amusingly encapsulated for me by the sight of a somewhat prim and proper religious procession proceeding toward the Tor which was spontaneously joined by a young lady, bare foot and festooned with wild flowers, stoned out of her head by God knows what, attracted out of Chalice Well gardens to dance alongside and within and the more staid procession. That, in a sense, was a caricature, to my mind, of Glastonbury all over!

However, there is of course more to it than that. And it seems to me that Dion Fortune had it about right in crediting the place with being a harmonious meeting point between many strands of the spiritual powers of the land. (Well perhaps not too harmonious!) There is a certain great mystical peace manifest among the abbey ruins just as there are about the town points of stimulus to the ancient powers of the land, and there need be no conflict between them. Although I suppose, a certain amount of effervescence might be expected in the confluence of the red and the white. Dragons fighting, but not in anger. Even if we humans do like to take sides like supporters at some cosmic football match.

Something of this effervescence comes out in unexpected ways. One such being the attack on the Glastonbury thorn on Wearyall Hill. Who knows what is at the back of all that? And I do not suppose that even those who perpetrate it know. Even if they think they do.

Glastonbury has a way of coming back at you, even when you least expect it, even if you want to pretend it isn’t there. It has a certain powerful magnetism. I have found it in my own affairs. Helios Book Service, which I launched with my old partners John and Mary Hall back in the early sixties, up near Cheltenham, ended its days in Glastonbury. Sold up when John and Mary retired, it showed a brave face at a corner site at the bottom of the High Street for a couple of years before going to the wall. And on a more positive note, when invited to give a talk in the Assembly Rooms at a Dion Fortune memorial conference in 2007, a young lady came up and started a conversation that ended up with my being persuaded to write my autobiography. Something I swore I would never do as I always preferred looking forward to looking backwards.

However, looking backward does have its points. The subject of my talk that day was on the Faery Tradition in Arthurian Legend, which somehow seemed to strike an octave with Dion Fortune’s introduction to faery in 1920 at the performance in this same hall of Rutland Boughton and Fiona Macleod’s The Immortal Hour. What goes around, comes around. And particularly in what Dion Fortune described as a “three ring circus” such as Glastonbury. From faery rings, to the ring of the Glastonbury zodiac first noted by Dr John Dee, to the continuing ring on the inner of the Abbey bells, there is something for everyone there. Even Tescos.

As Sir Gawain, and other heroes like him found, when confronted with the prospect of embracing a loathly damsel, you only have to take her on her own terms for her transformation to take place. But it is all in your own mind!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

In Order to Serve

Having revealed the story of my occult life – or much of it – in I Called It Magic the time comes, as I said in the book, “to take stock of it – not so much in self justification – but in order to dust it off, look it up and down, and make some kind of appraisal of what it was all about.”

Such an appraisal is quite a challenge. It is one thing to write such a book – simply a matter of scribbling a kind of life long equivalent of the “Evening Review” – but another to take in the implications – things that one took for granted and so hardly noticed them. One of these things – and it seems the key one – is the question of “service”.

I never thought very much about it at the time – even though it is a condition for admission into the Society of the Inner Light: “I desire to know in order to serve.” But it is only in reading some reviews of my book that I realise just how important and fundamental the service part was. And also how important and fundamental it was (and is) to the work and ideals of the Society of the Inner Light.

This was succinctly pointed out by the esoteric blogger Peregrin Wildoak on “Throughout the book again and again the magic described is transpersonal – affecting the soul or mind of a nation or a people…This is the type of magic the Inner Light tradition excels at, and is often what distinguishes it from the Golden Dawn tradition which has a tendency to be more self transformational based.”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Peregrin hastily adds, with an eye on his Golden Dawn readers, some of whose adepti can be somewhat tetchy if not downright abusive. But let it be said that Peregrin is no mean Golden Dawner himself, as his Skylight Press book By Names and Images, Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life will reveal.

But in this matter he puts his finger on a crucial point. It is one that concerns the aims and assumptions of all groups within the Western Esoteric Tradition. What do we mean by “service”? And what do we mean by “self transformation”? The answers to these questions are by no means as obvious as might at first appear.

As regards “self transformation”, our old friend the Tree of Life (“a blueprint of the Soul of Man and of the Universe”) should provide us with a yardstick by which we can measure our degree of psychic and magical abilities.

By reference to its various spheres and patterns, going up the Tree denotes various levels of consciousness in ourselves, which correspond to various planes of consciousness in the inner worlds of the objective Universe. Thus, starting with the physical body, etheric vehicle, mind and emotions of the Incarnationary Personality, (Malkuth, Yesod, Hod, Netzach), we endeavour to rise to increasing awareness and conscious identification with the Higher Self or Evolutionary Personality (Tiphareth, Geburah and Chesed), with ultimate hopes of breaking through to spiritual consciousness in the Supernal Triad (Binah, Chokmah, Kether).

Those whom we may meet at these inner levels of awareness include the Inner Plane Adepti, and the one known as David Carstairs in communication with Dion Fortune back in 1922, spoke of himself operating generally on the 4th Plane, Dion Fortune being a 4th plane medium, and senior inner plane adepti, such as the Chancellor, being on the 5th or even 6th but able to come down on occasion to make contact with her. [cf. Dion Fortune’s Spiritualism and Occultism (Thoth 1999), page 150.]

This implies that we place the 4th plane on Tiphareth, the 5th plane on the Geburah/Chesed level, and 6th with Binah/Chokmah. Most mediums, Carstairs said, operate at the 3rd plane level which we may regard as the Incarnationary Personality level of Hod/Netzach which is typical of Spiritualist demonstrations of clairvoyance and contact with the recently departed.

There does not seem a lot wrong with this measure of expanding consciousness – although it is open to some abuse and self deception. No one, to my mind who makes claims to being an adept is likely to be one, let alone able to confer “astral initiations” for a fee. And apart from some distressing exhibitions of hubris in the history of 20th century occultism one has only to look at some effusions on the internet to realise that high claims do not necessarily equate with high performance. Indeed it might be argued that it is not higher consciousness or self transformation that is being demonstrated, but hyper-inflation of the ego.

So is the concept and commitment to “service” a fail safe against this tendency?

In the Mystery tradition there is emphasis upon personal responsibility. This can be expressed in three ways, Power, Love, and Wisdom, which is what the initiate should seek, and endeavour to express. And that expression is in the way of Service. But the details of that service are left for us to find out, which is the nature of what we call the Quest.

Some might say that this Quest is the Quest for God. (“In whom do you put your trust?” “In God” is another required response at the door of the Mysteries). Not that we have to climb all the way up to Kether in order to discover God. This is because the Tree of Life, and that is to say ourselves and also the whole created universe, are all IN GOD. In Qabalistic doctrine this is know as the tsim-tsum. Diagrammatically speaking, this means we could extend the so-called Veils of the Ain Soph Aur, the Limitless Light, all round the Tree, not just up there as a fringe beyond Kether. We can contact the Limitless Light from any Sephirah – including Malkuth – which is no doubt what Arthur Chichester realised in the early 1960’s when he hacked back all Greater and Lesser Mystery Degrees to one uniform base.

Not that the Society was emasculated by this action. What happened was that it reverted for a time to the pattern of the old Guild of the Master Jesus or Church of the Grail in all but name, and thus became in effect a religious group rather than an initiatory magical system. And no doubt it did sterling work in the performance of rituals that concentrated upon the welfare of the Planetary Being under the blessing of the Mother of God, the archetypal paragon of service in the Christian dynamic.

By the same token however, any idea of self transformation was slanted away from psychic or magical technique and focussed on moral and ethical integrity. The Power, Love and Wisdom of magical aspiration virtually replaced by the traditional monastic equivalents of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.

At this some of us felt the call to move on when it became apparent that this regime was going to be permanent. Not an easy decision I have to say but it seemed that the old ways needed to be preserved in some fashion or another. For the egalitarian system we left was not without its problems. If you have any one member of a group who is credited with being the sole channel of communication from authoritative levels, you may have substituted a more pernicious grade system than the one you thought you had got rid of. And without the creative questing of the psychic and magical disciplines (the equivalent of the research and development department in a commercial company) in course of time the whole thing is liable to run down like ancient clockwork, with no means to restore the tension on its main spring. Which is arguably what happened twenty to thirty years later in the 1980’s, after the death of its Spiritual Director.

And so I found myself ploughing a lone furrow, developing into that form of service that Peregrin Wildoak describes as being of a transpersonal nature – “affecting the soul or mind of a nation or a people.” – or as it seemed to me, “unfinished business in the group soul of the nation, or at worst some festering psychic sores that need attention.”

Not that this involved reading the newspapers to decide what needed to be improved in the world and then composing rituals to right it. I would not have the wisdom, courage or presumption to try. In working with archetypal forces it is tried and trusted inner guides who call the shots. The ones you have contacted by your psychic and magical self-transformation along the time honoured traditional lines.

Peregrine Wildoak obviously considers this kind of work typical of the Inner Light, and this is arguably what much of Dion Fortune’s life work was about through the 1920’s and 30’s – not least in her novels – and also revealed in the legacy of her war letters.

Although in the latter we find some popular misunderstanding about what magical work of this type is all about. When, in 1993, with the title of Dion Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain, the Society funded publication of the gist of these letters, the book did not raise a great deal of interest at first. But since then, having been unavailable for one reason and another for nearly twenty years, and possibly exacerbated by the somewhat sensational title, a great vortex of glamorised speculation has formed. Dion Fortune is alleged to have been a mastermind who oversaw the occult forces of Great Britain marshalled against the 3rd Reich. Indeed I was recently approached to advise in production of a film that featured a James Bond character fighting the black magic of Himmler and the S.S., instructed in occultism by the secret adepti of the Society of the Inner Light.

Needless to say I rejected the opportunity and tried to instil a little sense and sensibility into the situation, as I had earlier had to do in response to a similar approach from BBC radio. The fact is that many other little esoteric groups meditated on ways to help the war effort back in 1940. It was all part of a spontaneous popular turning to spiritual resources when the nation was in danger – and included National Days of Prayer supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury – who was not necessarily taking secret instruction from Dion Fortune!

In order to stem this tide of heated conjecture Skylight Press is re-issuing the title – after which some sense of proportion will hopefully be restored. And those who wish to read Dion Fortune’s meditations of 1940 will not have to pay an astronomical price for them on the second hand market.

But all this relates to what I had to say and possibly demonstrate in my autobiography, about the deeper strata of occult work being involved with the group soul of the nation. It has nothing to do with MI5 or MI6 or CIA political skulduggery, but with the cure of souls. And a better demonstration of the kind of thing involved lies in the Chapels of Remembrance work, which was commenced in the Gareth Knight (now Avalon) Group, and taken up and supported by the Society of the Inner Light. The detail of which can be found in a few places, including An Introduction to Ritual Magic by Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight (Thoth 1997), The Abbey Papers (2nd edition) by Gareth Knight and Rebecca Wilby (Skylight 2011), the play This Wretched Splendour and novel In Different Skies by Rebecca Wilby (both Skylight 2010).

And it should also be said that much of this might not have got off the ground had it not been for the intuitive generosity of David Williams, the Warden of the Society of the Inner Light, releasing some early SIL papers by Carstairs for study by Rebecca, and later some 1st World War maps of the Western Front to me when we went to pace out the territory. A true melding of inner and outer plane work, and cooperation between groups within and without the Lodge.

Has there been a noticeable effect upon the group soul of the nation? Possibly so, insofar that the November Remembrance ceremonies were on the point of extinction just a few years ago, as surviving veterans became fewer, but since then there has been a remarkable resurgence. Although the main thrust of the magical work of the Chapels of Remembrance is for individual victims on the inner levels.

And this is how I think a Mystery group should operate in the future. With two parallel sections – not necessarily regarded as Lesser and Greater for they are equally important. The latter doing the research and development, encouraging creative individuality, and feeding into the former when called upon to do so. The former providing basic training for initiates, and the established routine ceremonial workings that provide a flywheel and gyro of stability for the whole enterprise. As for grades, they have their place, but are best regarded as marks of demonstrable ability rather than badges of rank. (The acid test being – if you want to know if a man is a great adept or magus of light – ask his wife and kids!)

And in these times, when the world is much more aware of the rudiments of the Mysteries than at any time in the past, admission to a life of skilled and dedicated service could well be made more of an attraction and less of an obstacle course. For without new blood even the healthiest body corporate will die, or at best, as has happened in the past, become dangerously anaemic.

But with these principles in action as well as in mind, it seems to me that the Society of the Inner Light can remain an exemplar of service as envisaged and pioneered by its founders.

[from the Inner Light Journal, Vernal Equinox 2012]

Friday, June 08, 2012

Brilliant new blog spot - Sulis Manoeuvre

For anyone interested in the esoteric concept of the Land this new blog by Rebsie is a must. As she says:

"Sulis Manoeuvre celebrates the land of Britain through its inner resonances - faery, ancestral, elemental or otherwise, in whatever form arises spontaneously."

Somehow Rebsie manages to share the living and real essence and presences of the sacred land from the sites she visits - in photos and words and wonderfully shared personal experiences.
Go and see for yourself at

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Appropriately for May Day and at a time when the Moon was not only at the full but closest it ever gets to the earth in its ovoid orbit, thus appearing a huge in the sky, Skylight Press has just published my latest book - FAERY LOVES AND FAERY LAIS.            
The Breton lai is a relatively short narrative, usually accompanied by music, that appeared in France some time about the middle of the 12th century, spread by travelling musicians and story tellers called ‘jongleurs’ and containing a great deal of faery and supernatural lore.
There was also at this time a demand in courtly circles for long romances to be written and recited by court poets such as Chr├ętien de Troyes, who was the first to exploit the popularity of Arthurian legend. A major source for such romances were the lais told by the travelling jongleurs, who in turn derived their tales from the Celts of Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.
Their versions were not for courtly consumption however, but were a cruder and less sophisticated rendering of the stories, with more direct reportage of the marvels of the supernatural. They catered to a different audience – wherever a crowd could be gathered, in inn or market place or servants’ hall.
Their main theme is the appearance of faery, a supernatural being, usually feminine, who is young, ravishingly beautiful and richly dressed, who possesses magic powers to help a human being she likes and loves. Although woe betide him if he gets the wrong side of her or fails to obey the rules of a human/faery relationship.
There are also feisty male equivalents of the female faery. They may take the form of a young and handsome knight clad in red armour and riding a white charger (possibly with red ears) that is capable of galloping underwater or, on dry land, faster than a bird can fly. They may appear off their own bat in order to father a child on a lady, or to instruct or test a young knight, or in response to the invocation of a lonely damsel or mis-treated wife. Also transposing into the form of a hawk or a stag. 
You can learn more about these exciting goings on by visiting the Skylight Press web site, and their accompanying blog “Through the Skylight”. And even if you do not want to buy the book, it is worth going there if only to see the most evocative cover that Rebsie Fairholm has dreamed up, inviting even the most prosaic of readers through a mysterious arch into the faery forest. 

Monday, April 09, 2012

Bringing the Golden Dawn to life!

Our perceptions of the Golden Dawn system have come a long way over the past 120 years or so. And I lay emphasis on the word “perceptions” because while these have changed and been for better or for worse in terms of vision, the egregore of the Golden Dawn has been what it ever was – the framework for a very powerful spiritual impulse capable of being expressed at many levels of understanding and practice.

It is my belief that Peregrin Wildoak’s new book – By Names and Images – marks an important milestone upon the way. In fact I would go so far as to say that he presents us with an Owner’s Manual for a very complicated set of parts that have been bequeathed to us –and the analogy holds good for various ways in which we may look at it.

We are talking about a magical system, which is not an easy concept to get one’s head round. However it is not a million miles away from the predicament of a buying a flat pack from a DIY furniture store with non-existent instructions on how to put it together – or at best – or possibly worst – a mess of garbled notes in words we do not understand hacked together by other amateurs who have been in much the same predicament as ourselves.

To add an additional piquancy to this analogy we might consider the dilemma of an aspiring amateur mechanic in receipt of a complex set of parts in order to make up his own motor car. Without perhaps being entirely sure of what kind of car it is meant to be. I have been guilty myself in the past of likening the Golden Dawn to a veteran car – of romantic interest but perhaps not the best way to get from A to B. However, I also recall – from real life – an American friend who sported what purported to be a Model T Ford but which had a three and a half litre Chevrolet engine concealed under the bonnet. There is not a world of difference between such a hair raising monster and a powerful but ancient magical system. Look out for spills!

Again, whilst in the confessional mood, I have been guilty of likening the Golden Dawn to a wedding cake – all silver gilt and decoration but without a lot inside to live up to the promise of a gourmet’s delight. And it is perhaps true that some may confuse the gilt and decoration for the cake inside and content themselves as best they may by chewing on cardboard, however I draw back whatever I might have said about the quality of the cake within. Although this might in turn depend on how best you might have baked it.

Anyhow, whether it comes to furniture making, motor mechanics or culinary preparations for a mystic wedding, Peregrin has much to recommend him as an instructor. I say that as a regular reader of his blog “the magic of the ordinary” which reveals a balanced individual exceptionally well grounded with a breadth and depth (both are important) of knowledge and experience in matters mystical and magical.

When I was a fresh faced young initiate the four volumes of Israel Regardie’s “Golden Dawn” in the Inner Library (mark the word “inner” – not a work to be allowed out for any of the hoi polloi to read) represented a chest of hidden treasures. You can look but you can’t touch! One might sneak a look at it but that was about as far as it went in my chosen esoteric boot camp of the time. We have since seen a generation come up who, with the help of a resurgent Israel Regardie, have done much to get the show on the road again. So thank you Chic and Tabatha Cicero, Nick Farrell, and others unknown – a roll call to which the name Peregrin Wildoak can be added, it seems to me, with every confidence. His book, subtitled Bringing the Golden Dawn to life, should help bring the system to life for anyone. As for itself, it has never died, but has waited for someone to put the fragmented parts of the body of Osiris together again. Go to it ye sons and daughters of Isis!

By Names and Images - Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life by Peregrin Wildoak is published by Skylight Press - Go to their web site for more details:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Magical Battle of Britain

Dion Fortune's War Letters - which I was commissioned to edit back in 1991 under the title of The Magical Battle of Britain has for various reasons been out of print for most of the past nigh on twenty years. In the meantime it has reached astronomical prices on the second hand market and its absence has sparked all kinds of ridiculous rumours about Dion Fortune taking on the forces of the Third Reich almost singlehanded and I know not what else. The truth is better than the fiction - and now you have a chance to see for yourself at a reasonable price as it has just been republished by Skylight Press. Go to it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gwenevere and the Round Table

Here is a book not to miss if you have any interest in the Arthurian, Grail or Faery traditions. By Wendy Berg, to whom I passed over the running of my group when I retired. Gwenevere and the Round Table puts the faery elements of Arthurian legend into practice, showing how the Round Table was an actual, practical system of magic. A series of meditations, magical exercises, guided visualisations and a full ritual will take you into each of the five faery Kingdoms described in the legends, Lyonesse, Sorelois, Gorre, Oriande, and the central Grail Kingdom of Listenois. At the heart of these mysteries is the Round Table of the Stars, an experiential journey through 12 constellations, which very neatly and remarkably demonstate the continuing work of the Round Table into the future.

I think this is a classic! Not only a lucid guide to faery dynamics in Arthurian and Grail legend but what to do about it, why, and how. A practical follow up to Wendy's mind blowing Red Tree, White Tree. Highly recommended.

For more details go to or Amazon or your usual book supplier.