Saturday, August 03, 2013

Now we are three!

Now we are three. That is to say – three years old. And we are Skylight Press. A brain child of my daughter Rebecca along with kindred spirit Daniel Staniforth, based in the USA,  and we recently got together to celebrate the occasion.

 In some respects Skylight is a reincarnation of my old Helios Books imprint that was active in the 1960’s and had much the same aims. Back in those pioneer days of antique technology I sought to produce quality esoteric books, which for example  included neglected monographs by Israel Regardie, such as  “The Art of True Healing”, out of print for thirty years; the first works of the then unknown William G Gray with “The Ladder of Lights”, “Magical Ritual Methods” and "The Rollright Ritual";  a reprinting of Dion Fortune’s “The Cosmic Doctrine”, to say nothing of my own first venture as an author - “A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism”.

I managed to stagger up to a list of about a dozen books, all set at enormous expense in heavy metal with hundreds stored in my attic, though this is very much put into the shade by Skylight’s tally of some sixty books in its first three years. Much helped by modern technology but still created and sustained by hard graft and dedication, comprising the professional design and typographical skills of Rebecca backed up by the promotional, editorial and general office slog of the astute and indefatigable Daniel.  My own role is simply to advise (when requested) and sit back in wonder at what can be done with the marvels of new communication technology in the right hands.

And what a great buggy ride it has been, just riding shotgun with the Skylight Press. Apart from getting my own esoteric autobiography “I Called It Magic” out into the world, along with a number of old titles that had fallen by the wayside in difficult times (“The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend”, “The Magical World of the Inklings”, “A History of White Magic”, “Magical Images and the Magical Imagination” etc.,) it has been great to see a stimulation of the dynamics of the faery tradition  - not only my own works on Melusine but the remarkable insights of Wendy Berg’s “Red Tree, White Tree” and practical follow up “Gwenevere and the Round Table” to say nothing of Steve Blamire’s “The Chronicles of the Sidhe” and “The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition” with more to come.

But that is not all – Dion Fortune’s old adage, by which she lived her esoteric life was to follow the three fold way of Hermetic magic, the Green Ray and the Christian mystical tradition. On the Hermetic front Skylight has plainly produced a winner with Golden Dawn initiates in Peregrin Wildoak’s “By Names and Images” with Nick Farrell’s “The Magical Imagination” seeming set to follow suit. While the best dynamics of the mystical tradition have been well represented with books by my old sparring partner the Rev. Canon Anthony Duncan, “The Christ, Psychotherapy & Magic” and “The Forgotten Faith- the witness of the Celtic Saints” – and be on the lookout for some more remarkable eye openers from him in the coming weeks – not least my joint effort with him “Christ and Qabalah”.

Of course Skylight has not only been active on the esoteric front but has developed a list of modern literary fiction as a result of Daniel’s academic contacts and perceptive foraging, not least of which is the remarkable iconoclastic Iain Sinclair’s “Ludd Heat” that had quite an influence on the award winning novel “Hawksmoor” by Peter Ackroyd. It is what psycho-geography is all about from the sharp end! So watch out too for “Suicide Bridge”.
My own interests tend naturally to the borderland shared by literary and occult fiction and what an eye opener it has been to discover Alan Richardson’s remarkable gifts as a novelist in addition to being a first class biographer of Dion Fortune. “Winsley Hill” is a moving tale of a naturally psychic young farm worker, Rosie Chant, exploited by an academic psychic researcher. Set in a real location, a plateau near Bath with chronicles of old light ever stirring on the hill it comes to a remarkable magical climax as she celebrates her 100th year.  Conversely, he  has a reputation for taking no prisoners when it comes to lampooning psychic pretentiousness – of which there is, as ever, no shortage these days. “The Fat Git – the Story of a Merlin” is a riveting burlesque of modern magic. Read it if you dare!
 Anthony Duncan has also shown a remarkable gift as an esoteric novelist with the spooky “Faversham’s Dream” – that is based upon actual present and historical circumstances, whilst for anyone who wants to feel their flesh creep our re-issue  of Margaret Lumley Brown’s 1919 novella “Both Sides of the Door” can hardly be bettered, particularly as it is closely based on fact – and the opening up of her remarkable psychic powers by experimenting with an Ouija board in what turned out to be a remarkably haunted house near the old public gallows at Tyburn. Rebecca has also taken the trouble to research the district and locate where it actually was. I was a great friend and student of MLB's at the old Society of the Inner Light and she has been rated as possibly the most gifted clairvoyant of the 20th century.

Alas, it is not possible to mention every writer that has graced the Skylight list over the past three years but they are all on display – with links to their respective web sites – on the Skylight Press site.
As an old pro who has been involved with publishing in one way or another over the years I am ever struck with the uncertainty of the game. There is a close connection with trying to make money by backing horses. You never know what is going to exceed all expectations, nor what is likely not to be the runaway winner that you thought. One book that stands out in this regard is Hugh Fox’s “Immortal Jaguar” which I was quite convinced would rock or equal the reputation of Carlos Castenada. It is an amazing account of the powers and visionary experiences unleashed by nibbling magic mushrooms in Peru under local instruction – part memoir, part archaeology, and a visionary trip that opens up to a dazzling world of the Immortals. Yet also something of a cautionary tale as on his return to academic life in the US he found that having a shamanic gift that he was is unable to switch off can be something of a liability. Fascinating stuff.