Tuesday, June 28, 2016


A meditation for those wishing to take part in a commemoration of the Battle of the Somme 30th June - 1st July 1916-2016
Start by seeing yourself/selves at the outer gate of an ancient abbey. Beyond its frame of ornate ironwork a wide stone paved path leads to the porch of its north door, flanked on either side by mature yew trees. Enter upon that path and as you make your way between the trees be aware of the presence of any Masters of the Western Tradition known to you; they are always here, ready to provide advice, encouragement and assistance to any who come here seeking to give service. Entering the abbey porch approach the guardian at the inner door and give your mystery name to him. He salutes each of you in turn as you pass into the abbey.
As your eyes grow accustomed to the low light inside your attention is drawn to a large white tablet set into the wall in the south side of the building, directly opposite where  you are standing. Make your way over to it, crossing the nave and passing the great baptismal font, and as you draw nearer you see that the vast white tablet is a war memorial, and engraved over its entire surface countless names, of those slain in the Great War. This elegant roll call is so enormous that it is only possible to read a tiny proportion of the names at one time, and most of them are unfamiliar to you, although you may see a few that you recognise. Underneath the tablet is a marble shelf, thickly strewn with poppies, and to one side is a rough wooden cross, salvaged from a soldier's makeshift grave on the battlefield. Although this memorial is ostensibly dedicated to those who fell in the Great War, it is implicitly honouring the victims of all wars. Stand before it for a moment, respectfully contemplating all that it represents.
Then become aware of a figure standing nearby looking up at the marble tablet. He is a short, dark haired young man wearing the uniform of an officer of the First World War. As if sensing your presence he turns round with a shy smile and you recognise him to be the poet Wilfred Owen. It is now his duty and honour to guard the entrance to the Chapel of Remembrance, where he stands as an archetype of the pity of war, and serves as a guide.
He indicates a dark alcove to the right of the war memorial, and you see that it is a small doorway sealed off by a crimson curtain. This is the entrance to the Chapel of Remembrance and he invites you to enter. When you agree to do so he draws the curtain aside and you pass through the little doorway to take your place within, amongst the inner company of the Light of the Somme.
The rest is up to you and to your vision.

Monday, June 27, 2016




Issued as an antepenultimate reminder of the Dion Fortune seminar at Glastonbury on 24th September 2016.

For programme and booking details see Company of Avalon website.

The following text is taken from  letters to students by Dion Fortune in 1942/3. Also published as part of ‘Principles of Hermetic Philosophy’ by Dion Fortune & Gareth Knight (Thoth Publications 1999).

We will take it, then, that in competent hands, astrology can diagnose the psychic atmosphere of any given spot on the earth’s surface at any given moment, past, present or future. Let us next enquire in what manner such conditions can affect mundane affairs, and human destiny in particular. Dane Rudhyar, the well-known American writer on astrology, whose work I esteem very highly, explains the interaction of macrocosm and microcosm on the same lines as the early psychologists tried to explain the inter-relations of mind and body by the hypothesis of psychological parallelism, an explanation which speedily gave way in the face of greater knowledge of physiology.

Parallelism has been compared to two clocks which strike the hours at the same time because the hands are moving at the same pace, but they are only moving at the same pace because they are set to keep time with a third factor – the chronometer at Greenwich. To apply this hypothesis to astrology we must postulate a third and absolute system to which both man and the cosmos are attuned. But if we do this, the law of logic known as Occham’s Razor descends on us and cuts short our argument – we are not justified in postulating something to exist in order to explain something else unless its existence is absolutely necessary, such as is the case concerning the ether of physics.

We might possibly say that man and the solar system keep time with God, and we are probably right in so doing, but we must then define and explain God, and in the absence of any such definition and explanation we are no further forward. Moreover we are rash in deciding that any two things so intimately related as man and the solar system are without influence upon each other, and the scientific maxim that hypotheses should not be needlessly multiplied further gives us pause in this direction. So altogether we are on sounder ground, and faced with a simpler problem, if we decide that the universe in which he lives has an effect upon man than if we decide that the relationship is simply that of two sets of symbols saying the same thing in different languages. To change the geocentric into the heliocentric theory of astrology may be impossible if we consider the matter from the exoteric point of view.

According to esoteric philosophy, there are several planes of existence, each of which developed during a phase of evolution which might be likened to a wave rushing up the beach at the head of the rising tide. Each such phase of evolution, it is held, took place on a different planet of the solar system, and in consequence each planet has a psychic atmosphere which is characterised by the type of evolution which developed there. Each such phase of evolution gave rise to substance of a particular type – spirit-substance, thought-stuff, the astral light – according to the terminology used. The substance of each planetary phase of evolution spreads through the solar system, interpenetrating the substance of every other planetary evolution in the same way as the water particles and soot particles float in the air in a London fog, their particular concentration at a particular spot determining whether we have a white fog or one of the old-fashioned ‘pea-soup’ variety.

Out of the subtle substances thus spread through space every living entity builds up the subtler aspects of its organisation in the same way that the physical body is built up out of the mineral substances of the Earth. Each such type of substance has emanated from a particular planet, and continues to centre about that planet, partaking of its nature and responding to its conditions. Such modicum of the general substance as is organised into the organism of any entity likewise responds to the influence of the planet that emanated it. Consequently if Mars enters an active phase, the Martian element in those exposed to its influence is energised unless there are other factors present which inhibit it; and in proportion to the amount of the Martian factor in our makeup will be the amount of influence it exerts on our state as a whole. We can therefore conceive the planetary influences working along the lines of the sympathetic induction of vibration, even as a note struck on a piano will set the corresponding string on any other stringed instrument vibrating, but will not activate any other string, nor will it activate a string against which the damper is pressing at the moment.

The complex psychic atmosphere of a given place at a given moment will call out sympathetic vibrations in the complex human soul, or in any organism or unit that has a psychic side to it, using that term in its broadest aspect. According to esoteric philosophy, there is nothing in existence that has not got a psychic side to it, though there are many things that have not got a physical form, for all existence begins on the subtle planes and therefore has a psychic  or soul side, but not all existence progresses as far as the physical plane, and therefore may not have a physical side – or, equally, having progressed so far, has begun to return on the evolutionary arc that leads it back to spirit again, and has sloughed off its material sheath. We may take it, however, that every human being has all the aspects of manifestation represented in him, and that many things not suspected of having souls, such as the earth itself, or a nation, may not be so ill equipped in that aspect as the orthodoxly materialistic believe.

If we agree this, and of course we cannot continue the argument if we do not, we must then ask ourselves how different men come by such widely varying proportions of the different elements in their composition, and why we are not all made from the same mixture.

This can only be explained logically if the doctrine of reincarnation be accepted, failing which we have to fall back on the doctrine of special creation in the psychological sphere, a doctrine which in the biological one died with Darwin. We might therefore do well to relegate the doctrine of special creation to the same limbo of historical curiosities as the doctrine of psycho-physical parallelism, both having been revealed as groundless in the light of greater knowledge.

According to the doctrine of reincarnation, the immortal spirit of man progresses throughout an evolution by means of alternating periods of objective life on the physical plane and subjective life on the inner planes. In the course of such age-long evolution, different experiences cause greater and greater cumulative divergence of individuals from each other though they remain basically true to the original type; the longer they have been evolving, and the richer the experience of which they have partaken, the greater the divergation, till at last we get beings that are so far removed from the simple uniformity of the primal type that they are said to be individualised. This implies that instead of reacting in the manner common to the basic stock from which they derived, they will deal with circumstances in a way peculiar to themselves, being conditioned by past experience not shared by others. Their reactions are thus original and singular, and though if we know a person’s nature we shall be able to predict accurately what he will do in a given set of circumstances, what he will do throws no light on what another individualised person will do in similar circumstances. The way William Penn dealt with the Indians in founding Pennsylvania gives us no guide to what Himmler will do in pacifying the Poles.

If we know the record of a person from his youth upwards, we can generally make a pretty good guess at his behaviour in all ordinary circumstances, or so we think when we ask for ‘references’. These ‘references’ are based on experience of what he is, but they do not tell us how he came to be what he is. That is a question to which no one save the esotericists have hitherto given any kind of an answer, biologists and genealogists having failed lamentably. Mendel has told us something of the simply biological factors in the simple organisms, but nothing at all of the infinite variety which marks the more highly evolved specimens of humankind.

It is a man’s experiences and reactions to experiences in past incarnations that make him what he is in his present incarnation, each life adding its quota of differentiation and acquired faculty. Man is what he is by virtue of having been what he was. He learns by experience in the course of the evolution of the soul, just as in a single life he can hardly fail to profit to some extent at least by the vicissitudes that life brings to him. ‘A burnt child dreads fire,’ and ‘Once bit, twice shy,’ are folk wisdom enshrining this truth, and though most proverbs have their opposites, and ‘All is not gold that glitters,’ is balanced by ‘Fine feathers make fine bird,’ I know of no proverb that denies the educational value of experience, and it is universally held that only a fool fails to profit by it and that the man who cannot so profit is sub-standard. It was said in derogation of the Bourbons that they learnt nothing and forgot nothing.

The essence of life experience is absorbed by the immortal spirit from each incarnation just as essential nutriment is absorbed by the body from food; thus is the immortal spirit built up from formless unity into organised consciousness. This organised and differentiated immortal self forms the basis on which the personality of each incarnation is built up, and accounts for all innate or congenital traits. The experiences undergone in a given incarnation develop, repress or modify these innate characteristics, and the innate characteristics with which our past evolution has furnished us determine the manner of our reaction to the experiences that come our way. In view of the predetermining basic temperament and the apparently random nature of earthly affairs, we may well ask what scope there is for free will and whether by any planning, however wise, man can alter his fate? We may even ask whether he has any fate to alter, or is but the football of circumstances?

There are but two sciences which offer an answer to these questions, psychology and astrology, but each gives only half an answer. Psychology deals with the personality’s reactions to experience; astrology deals with the nature of experience to which is will be required to react. Despite the desire of their more fanatical exponents to prove them to be self-contained systems giving a complete answer to all the problems of life, the disinterested unlooker, while obliged in honesty to concede certain of their claims, cannot be unaware of their respective limits. Any unprejudiced person can see, however, that the two systems actually complement and complete each other, and it is only ignorance and fanaticism that keep them apart. If it were possible to bring them together and make them complementary to each other, a big step forward in human knowledge would be taken.



Thursday, June 23, 2016


Enchantment at a distance

After the journalistic brouhaha leading to drawn pistols and rapiers and the apparent spooking of horses in early 1893 a more or less rational discussion began as to whether enchantment at a distance was, in any case, possible.  An early brochure by Papus, now virtually unobtainable,  seemed by its title, (Peut-on envoûter? – ‘Is enchantment possible?’), to cast doubt on this. Scientific experiments along these lines were difficult to set up but such as had been conducted by Dr Luys, Colonel de Rochas and himself at la Charité hospital had found it possible to achieve results only with deeply hypnotised people. Any attempt to influence anyone not hypnotised proved negative.

However, as it is not possible to draw valid conclusions by arguing from the particular to the general, this lack of success did not prove that the practice was impossible, so some traditional methods of dealing with such matters might well be worth considering. Some were therefore described in a short book that followed,  Pour Combattre l’Envoutement (Fighting against Enchantment), and replicated in subsequent editions of the popular instruction manual Traité Methodique de Magie Pratique.

At the same time Papus stressed the need to proceed with great caution, for many who thought they were being attacked were actually mentally ill, requiring professional medical or psychological expertise rather than amateur magic making or do it yourself exorcism. Nonetheless he was willing to describe various traditional means of defence, such as charcoal or sharp metal or magnetic devices.

As carbon, particularly wood charcoal, has the property of absorbing physical odours, so is it said to have the same effect with any astral plane emanation. It can thus be used to purify material objects suspected of being impregnated with any bad ‘astral fluid’ or atmosphere. To demagnetise a letter, for example, or any form of writing, it was enough to place it in a metal box full of charcoal. In those days the charcoal used in bakers’ ovens was recommended, of the type that gave intense glowing heat without flame. Probably that used for barbecues would be the modern equivalent.

Large objects, such as furniture, might best be dealt with by being placed in a magic circle and having a little charcoal placed upon them. Then after processing three times around it, burning incense, the charcoal could be buried at the foot of a tree.

Sharp metal points were considered act on astral forces in much the same way as electricity. The analogy of lightning conductors to protect buildings was suggested, and a house could be astrally defended by placing points at its doors. Or in individual cases a crown of points placed around the forehead could be effective, and at night the bed surrounded with sharp implements.   

On the other hand many who thought they were victims of enchantment were simply short of astral force; a quite common condition,  similar to anaemia, but unknown to most doctors,  despite devices being available such as the Vitalometer, invented by Louis Lucas in 1863,  or a similar Biometer by the abbé Fortin and a Dr Baraduc. The movement of the instrument’s needle under the influence of the left hand and then the right gave a measure of the astral fluid circulating in the organism,  or of any dispersion causing nervous anaemia. In such cases the application of one of the ‘magnetic crowns’ of Dr Luys, or the ‘electro-magnetic crown’ of Dr Gérard Encausse, or the magnetised plaques of Henri Durville and others were means of obtaining a cure.  

Modern sorcerers had begun to make use of the recent invention of photography, with the traditional wax dummy (or ‘volt’ to use its technical term) being replaced by a photograph of the victim. A number of disappointed lovers had been known to tear the eyes out of an image of the beloved, although this practice had no kind of repercussion on the astral and thus had no physical effect. There was, nonetheless, a secret way to give a photograph an astral vitality, but was of no use to most sorcerers who, happily, were “more boasters than initiates, even when they modestly called themselves Magi”. Astral attacks by means of a photograph were possible, “but the method of defence was reserved to the Rose Cross Kabbalists who were invested with a mission to destroy such works by whatever means” – {if one assumes that such magi were indeed initiates rather than boasters!  Some of this is on a par with the Grimoire or recipe book of a country sorcerer muddled with that of a snake oil salesman. Not Papus at his best. G.K. }  

But then there came a radical change in the level and type of advice, and the assertion that it is better to rely on spiritual rather than occult means in dealing with such matters. For instance, after a lengthy description in the booklet of the making of magic mirrors with different metals according to planetary correspondences, largely taken from Paracelsus, comes the bald statement that better than all these practices, prayer is the sovereign guard against all ill doing. That if one has enemies capable of using astral forces one should pray for them and ask heaven to enlighten them and bring them to the right way. If one did not know who they were it was necessary to ask for their invisible protection rather than overwhelm them with hatred and curses, which was the common procedure of sorcery.  

Against all astral action Psalm 31 is particularly efficient. And the recitation of the Gospel of St. John a remarkable ritual in all actions of astral defence. Whilst the practice of charity was indispensible for avoiding all attack. Particularly personal acts of help to individuals rather than general donations to organisations.

All of which seems to stem from a banishing ritual by Papus himself that went wrong, and led to his association with a mystical thaumaturge, Maître Philippe, whom he referred to thereafter as his ‘spiritual master’ after first assuming him to be an occult enemy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


The Boullan affair

Despite its monolithic appearance the Roman Catholic church has never lacked for would-be  reformers, one of whom was the Abbé Roca responsible for the initial coming together of Stanislas de Guaita and Oswald Wirth. He was one of the more responsible ones, with a mission for a kind of Christian socialism that attained a small respectable following before being formally examined and rejected by the papal authorities.

Not that all such maverick theologians were as personable. In 1879 an unfrocked priest by the name of Boullan, who claimed to be a reincarnation of John the Baptist, had taken over a breakaway group in Châlons-sur-Marne. His mission was to renew the church by means of a novel approach to sex in the cosmic scheme of things, which he taught was dual – one ‘generational’ for animals and the common herd of humanity – and the other ‘inspirational’ and ‘sacramental’ for high adepts. This involved intimate relations with angels and saints, as well as each other, at first remotely by animal magnetism but leading on to sacramental physical encounters either before the altar or in bed.

In short, Boullan was a sexually obsessed fantasist eager to increase his circle. However, he picked the wrong man when, in August 1885, he approached Oswald Wirth as a likely “Fils du Ciel” or Son of Heaven. On discovering that the sage had served a three year prison term for embezzlement of a religious society’s funds, Wirth duly lured him into a sequence of self incriminating correspondence along with evidence of his preying upon the lonely and vulnerable.

Two years later, on their meeting, he showed the bulky dossier to Stanislas de Guaita, who was horrified and sought some way whereby Boullan might be stopped. The method chosen was somewhat convoluted. It was to send the self styled saint a formal warning from the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross,  with the threat that if he did not mend his ways he would be dealt with by ‘exposure to the light’.

What they meant by “exposure to the light” was revelation to the public in the first volume of de Guaita’s planned trilogy, Le Serpent de la Genèse. But as this was not likely to be published until 1891 Boullan was told that, as an act of clemency, he was being allowed three years grace before suffering the threatened consequences. Dictated by Stanislas de Guaita to Oswald Wirth, and purportedly coming from an esoteric tribunal of high initiates, the lengthy letter concluded: Thus you stand condemned. But concerned with Christian charity rather than strict justice, the initiatory tribunal agrees to a period of grace. Thus the sentence will remain suspended over your head until the day when, by default of these most merciful arrangements, its application becomes inevitable...”.

It was confidently expected that this would inspire such fear in the pontiff as to bring about full contrition and conversion on his part.

This turned out to be a false hope, for the letter served only to exalt Boullan’s pride. He claimed, that jealous of his mystical powers, a powerful organisation of Parisian necromancers had declared war on him! But having God on his side, he braved all these threats. His enemies could mobilise all the legions of hell against him but he would defend himself with prayer and holy liturgical sacrifice, certain of victory.

Nonetheless the threat must have worried Boullan to some extent by reason of the alarming speculations of a female member of his group known as the holy mother Thibault, doubling as his housekeeper, who was accorded the status of a divine oracle. She claimed to be able to perceive the secret intentions of the Paris Rosicrucians, and saw them activating larvae on the astral plane each night that would come to assail Father Boullan, and although the fierce struggle might tire the worthy old man, criminally deprived of sleep, there was nothing to fear as he had command of heavenly legions.

Nor did the eventual publication of de Guaita’s book containing sixty pages condemning Boullan have the expected result upon him. He simply refused to accept the copy sent to him and warned his followers that it contained such malevolent poison that it could prove fatal to any who read it.

It was, however, eagerly devoured by the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, who wanted to describe Satanic worship in his next novel – La-Bàs (The Damned) – but knew nothing about the subject. What a godsend it was therefore to find a contemporary sorcerer anonymously described! (For rather than use Boullan's actual name, de Guaita had sarcastically referred to him throughout as 'the Baptist')

Discovering Boullan's identity (via Oswald Wirth) he sought more information from him, who, flattered at receiving a letter from a well known author, invited Huysmans to visit. Thereafter Huysmans took from Boullan whatever he was told, notwithstanding the fact that Boullan, convinced he was on the side of the angels, knew nothing of Satanic worship or the so-called Black Mass. What Huysmans received, and wrote up in his book, were in fact the fantasies of Mother Thibault.

The novel was eventually published in 1891, and achieved success as the first of a series describing  the moral quest of its hero, who, like the author himself, eventually finds salvation as an oblate in the Roman Catholic church. (The sequels are En Route (1895), La Cathédrale (1898) and l’Oblat 1903).

And so things might have rested had not, in January 1893, Father Boullan died!

Although his age and natural causes were quite sufficient to have carried him off, this seemed too much of an opportunity for a 23 year old graduate of literature by the name of Jules Bois. Fresh out of college, he was looking to make his way in journalism, specialising in the esoteric. He was at one point an acolyte of the veteran poet Catulle Mendès, who, it may be remembered, had first gifted Stanislas de Guaita with the works of Eliphas Levi.  

Huysman’s book enjoying great success, Jules Bois published an interview with the author in the national papers Le Figaro and Gils Blas, in the course of which it was suggested that the old priest from Châlons-sur-Marne had been threatened by Stanislas de Guaita and feared being killed by enchantment in a magical feud!

There was only one possible response to this in the eyes of Stanislas de Guatia, which was to challenge both author and journalist to a duel. Seconds were appointed, who called upon them both.
Huysmans, a middle aged civil servant, was naturally terrified on receiving the letter they bore:

To Monsieur J.-K Huysmans
Paris, 13th January 1893
Infamous and ridiculous gossip has been appearing about me in the press for several days, and you have been the propagator in the midst of it.
I call upon you to give satisfaction, not with occult weapons of this sorcery that you claim to fear and which I do not practise, but honestly with sword in hand.
This notice will be presented to you by my seconds whom you should put in touch with your own.
I have the honour, sir, to present my regards,
Stanislas de Guaita

 However, on the advice of Victor-Émile Michelet and Maurice Barrès, (de Guaita’s seconds, who were really a bit embarrassed by all this) Huysmans published a contrite apology and retraction that was duly accepted by de Guaita.

However, such was not the case with the young Jules Bois, who did not want to let a good story die, even if at some physical risk to himself. All of which suggests that he had no intention of apology or retraction and was determined to milk the situation for what it was worth. It was thus arranged that he should meet Stanislas de Guaita with pistols on 10th April and, (for some reason which remains obscure) Papus on 13th April with swords.

And as if this were not enough, there was the added spice of a suggestion of enchantments at a distance playing their part against him on his journey to each event.

At the first, on the way to meet Stanislas de Guaita, one of the horses in the equipage suddenly stopped and stood shivering for twenty minutes before it could be induced to continue. And in the second, three days later, against Papus, travelling by cab, the horse shied, upsetting the vehicle so that Bois arrived at the duelling ground some minutes late, bloodied and bruised. Nonetheless the duel went ahead, and he was easily wounded, twice in the forearm, by Papus, who was a skilled swordsman. It was thereupon agreed that honour had been satisfied and the two went off arm in arm, the greatest of friends. A not un-typical Papus scenario!

Neither participant was wounded in the pistol duel between Bois and de Guaita. Presumably both missed, either by incompetence or intention. One suspects that de Guaita would have deliberately missed, who although generally contemptuous of Bois, particularly as a writer, grudgingly acknowledged his courage in turning up for the affair.

In much of this, there is an ambience of someone trying to cast as much mystery over the proceedings as possible. Jules Bois would seem to be the likely candidate. He followed up  with writing a couple of occult interest books with a popular slant, L’au Dela et les Forces Inconnus (The Other World and Unknown Forces) and Le Satanisme et la Magie (Satanism and Magic), the first being paragraphs from newspaper columns to which he contributed.    

Ironically, Stanislas de Guaita came off worst in terms of reputation, and long remained the subject of rumours as to his magical activities, some of them bordering on the ridiculous, such as the tale of a familiar spirit kept in a cupboard in his apartments in the avenue Trudaine, a demon that was let out to execute at a distance sentences of death. The prison of this redoubtable entity did actually exist and, de Guaita remaining a keen amateur chemist, was no more esoteric than a fume cupboard and depository for dangerous chemicals. For safety’s sake his old domestic servant was warned of catastrophe if she risked opening it, which frightened the old countrywoman into believing the cupboard to be haunted, a line of gossip eagerly taken up by the press and casual visitors.  

The sequence of events may also have played a part in the transformation of the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross, perhaps rather too high minded for its own good as an esoteric fraternity, taking on a more academic function, and awarding degrees at Bachelor, Master and Doctorate levels in Kabbalistic and associated studies. There was no shortage of other initiatory bodies to join.