The Residual Light of Lady Olivia Robertson

We All Shine On

lady olivia
It is with great sadness and undying respect that we mourn the passing of Lady Olivia Robertson and celebrate the light she brought into this world. I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to meet Lady Olivia at a group Solstice ritual held in my home court of Nevada County and again on a subsequent trip when I found myself wandering the hills and dales of Ireland on a soul-seeking and life changing trip. Other than drinking massive amounts of Guinness and writing messy poetry in my journal, my purpose in Ireland held some direction, as I had been asked to deliver a gift sent by the local Fellowship of Isis in Nevada City, from Our Lady of the Yuba. I did visit Lady Olivia in her home  and was able to deliver the offerings directly to an altar there. The castle was magnificent, it’s gray stone and emerald grounds hovering forever in my memory, the rabbit warren of altars in the basement, the scent of incense, fire-smoke, earth. Lady Olivia was an absolute embodiment of the Goddess, and touched all who met her with her divine but very matter-of-fact love. And this is surely residual, in all the places she has been and will be, from the shores of the Yuba River to the Irish Sea, from castle walls to public halls.

In love and light,

~Amber Guetebier, Weiser Books Editor, on behalf of all of Red Wheel Weiser

Photo credit: Fellowship of Isis

“the garments of manifestation” – Psychic Assault: Part 2

… a continuation of the fascinating first chapter of Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense:

… in addition to the purely subjective phenomena, there will also be subjective ones if the attack has any degree of concentration. The phenomenon of repercussion is well-known, the phenomenon wherein that which befalls the subtle body is reflected in the dense body, so that after an astral skirmish during sleep, bruises are found on the physical body, sometimes bruises of a definite pattern. I have seen the print of a goat’s hoof and the ace of clubs marked upon the skin as well-defined bruises, passing from blue to yellow and dying away in the course of a few days, as bruises will.

Evil odours are another manifestation of an astral attack. The characteristic smell is of decomposing flesh, and it comes and goes capriciously; but while it is manifesting, there is no doubt whatever about it, and anyone who is present can smell it, whether they are psychic or not. I have also known a frightful stench of drains arise when a ritual belonging to the Element of Earth was being incorrectly performed.

Another curious phenomenon is the precipitation of slime. I have not actually seen this myself, but I have first-hand information on good authority of one such case. The marks are sometimes as if an army of slugs had been marching in ordered formation; sometimes there is a broad smear of slime, and at others, distinct footprints, often of a gigantic size. In the case to which I refer, of which I heard from an eyewitness, the  marks were like the footprints of an elephant, enormous tracks on the floor of the drawing-room  of a bungalow situated near the sea.

Odd footprints appearing from nowhere and leading nowhere are sometimes observes when there is snow about. I have seen them on two occasions on the roof of an outbuilding. They alighted upon the edge of it, as if the walker had stepped off an aeroplane, went straight across, and ended abruptly at the wall of the main building upon which the lean-to abuts. They did not return. A single line of footprints came from nowhere and ended in a lofty wall.

A similar happening took place on a very extensive scale in Devon some fifty years ago, and an account of it is to be found in that very curious book, Oddities, by Commander Gould. In this case, however, the prints were not human, but were those of what was apparently the hoof of a donkey, proceeding in a single line and going straight through walls and over roofs and covering the best part of  hundred miles in a single night on both sides of an unbridged estuary. Those who want confirmatory evidence would do well to consult Commander Gould’s book, where the incident is given full detail.

There is a curious phenomenon known to occultists as the astral bell;  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes use of it in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories. The sounds varies from a clear, bell-like noise to a faint click. I have often heard it resemble the sound made by striking a cracked wine glass with a knife-blade. It commonly announces the advent of an entity that is barely able to manifest, and need not necessarily be a herald of evil at all. It may simply be a knock on the door of the physical world to attract attention of the inhabitants to the presence of one who stands without and would speak with them. If, however, it occurs in the presence of other symptoms of an astral attach, it would give strong evidence in confirmation of the diagnosis.

Inexplicable outbreaks of fire are also sometimes seen in this connection. These indicate that elemental forces,not human, are at work. Poltergeist phenomena also occur, in which objects are flung about, bells rung and other noisy manifestations take place. Of course, there may be multiplicity of phenomena, more than one appearing in the same case.

Needless to say, the possibility of some natural, material explanation must never be ignored, even in cases where the supernatural element appears most obvious. It should always be diligently sought in every possible direction before any supernormal hypothesis is considered worthy of attention. But, on the other hand, we should not be so wedded to materialistic theories that we refuse to take psychic theory as a working hypothesis if it shows any possibility of being fruitful. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if, working on an occult hypothesis, we are able to clear up a case which has resisted all other methods of handling, we have pretty good evidence in support of our contention.

We must also bear in mind that the element of fraud may enter into the most unexpected places. I have seen a drug addict successfully pass himself off for a considerable length of time as the victim of an occult attack. A recent writer in the British Medical journal declared that whenever he came across a case of bell-ringing, knocks, the dripping of water and oil from the ceilings, and other untoward happenings, he always looked for the hysterical maidservant. Occultist would be very well advised to do likewise before they begin to worry about the Devil. But, on the other hand, the wise man, whether occultist or scientist, will not insist upon the hysterical maidservant unless he can catch her red-handed, as he surely will do sooner or later if she is the guilty party.

Forged bank-notes would never gain currency unless there were such a thing as genuine bank-notes. It would never occur to anyone to produce fraudulent psychic phenomena unless there had been some genuine psychic phenomena to act as a pattern for the forgery.

The acceptance of an explanation should rest upon the weight of evidence in its favour, it upon one’s dislike of its alternatives. I plead that the possibility of a non-material explanation should be investigated in cases where the material hypothesis does not yield results. Not in diseases of the brain and nervous system, nor of the ductless glands, nor in repression of natural instincts, shall we find the explanation in all cases where the mind is afflicted. There is more to man than mind and body. We shall never find the clue to the riddle of life until we realize that man is a spiritual being and that mind and body are the garments of his manifestation.

Women & The Occult – Lady Frieda Harris: Artist of the Thoth Tarot

As most of you probably know, Ankhie has recently started pulling a daily tarot card from the Thoth deck and posting a photo, along with the erudite musings of Lon Milo DuQuette, here, on Facebook and Twitter.

The Thoth Deck itself has been shrouded in fabulously dark misinterpretation for years, which makes looking at it card-by-card an exciting and educational experience.  (Somewhere inside me there is a good little Catholic-ish Ankh crying out “Don’t look at it. It’s evil!” How irresistable!)

In his memoir, My Life With the Spirits, Lon Milo DuQuette (master of Thoth interpretation) humorously relates his own inauspicious first encounter with the Crowley Tarot.

“Eventually I came upon an early edition of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot deck. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. The name Aleister Crowley sounded familiar and I vaguely recalled seeing his name footnoted in a Qabalah book by Frater Achad. I referred to my occult dictionary and discovered to my horror – “Aleister Crowley – famous Scottish Satanist…”

I may have been a wild crazy heretic but I sure didn’t want anything to do with Satanism. Knowing my brother had The Book of Thoth (the deck’s companion text), I promptly gave the cards to him – good riddance!”

DuQuette would soon come around, but it is notable that the first thing that drew him to the cards was the incredible artwork. And it is incredible – even more-so when one considers the artist – a London socialite and M.P.’s wife. Not the sort of company one necessarily associates with “the wickedest man in the world.”

But just as Crowley was much more than a “famous Scottish Satanist”, so Frieda Harris was much more than a “Lady.”

Given the impact of the artwork in this deck, DuQuette devotes an entire chapter of Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot to Lady Harris herself (entitled “The Lady and the Beast” the chapter that follows is ‘The Art”) and gives us insight into how this strange and fruitful collaboration came to be:

“Dear Aleister, say ‘like me a little.’ If I may aspire to such a position, you are my friend and when my friends are rude to me I cannot remember it. They remain the cone, the eye, the node, from which is ground all the pleasure I have in life.” – Harris to Crowley, January 28, 1940

…it was Harris, not Crowley, who first suggested that he redesign the traditional tarot images and write a book about it, which she would illustrate with seventy-eight paintings. Crowley flatly refused, suggesting simply that they “get hold of the best available old pack and have them re-drawn with occasional corrections and emendations.” A project like that, he speculated, would take only six months to complete. Harris was adamant, however. She insisted upon painting entirely new tarot images that would illustrate a comprehensive new book from Crowley. She eventually made and offer he couldn’t refuse. She would pay him a weekly stipend of 2 pounds a week to teach her magick. Crowley was bankrupt. He acquiesced.

Harris was introduced to Crowley by artist friend and London socialite Greta Valentine. They were all mutual friends of Clifford Bax, former co editor of the literary and art magazine The Golden Hind.

Harris was a Co-Mason and no stranger to esoteric subjects and ritual work, but at the beginning of the project she was a complete magical novice and by no means a tarot expert. Nonetheless, she said she felt impelled by her Holy Guardian Angel to create images that most accurately conveyed the deepest magical and spiritual meaning of each card. She thoroughly aquainted herself with the traditional tarot images and the descriptions found in The Equinox. She worked tirelessly from Crowley’s sketches and notes, and thought nothing of repainting a single card as many as eight times to satisfy his demands.

Crowley, displaying an uncharacteristic level of gracious candor, readily admitted that Harris’s genius forced him to apprehend each card as an individual masterpiece, and that her energy, not his, was the impetus that saw the enormous undertaking through to completion. It was truly a dynamic partnership of two brilliant and intensely motivated artists.


Lady Harris exhibited the paintings on at least three occasions; first in June 1941 at the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, then again in July 1942 at the Berkeley  Galleries on Davis Street, London, and in August 1942 at the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours on Conduit Street,London. At Harris’s insistence, Crowley was not in attendance, nor does his name appear anywhere in the program essays.

In 1944, Crowley published the first edition of The Book of Thoth, the textbook the card  were to illuminate. Assisting him financially with this project and several others was a young American soldier, Lieutenant Grady L. McMurtry, a member of Crowley’s magical order, Ordo Templi Orientis. In 1969, he would also be instrumental in arranging to have the seventy-eight paintings photographed and published as a deck of tarot cards.

McMurtry was the only person I have ever talked to who actually met Lady Harris. He first met her at Crowley’s flat at 93 Jermyn Street, Piccadilly. Shortly afterward, Crowley moved out of the city to Buckinghamshire. McMurtry and Harris would meet once again at her home in London. It was a brief encounter, but his description of the event (which I heard him recount at least a half-dozen times) is such a charming peek at Harris’s character and so indicative of the milieu of the times that I cannot resist attempting to retell it here. I hope Crowley biographers will forgive if my recollection of McMurtry’s oft-told story differs with their understanding of objective history.

It was late May 1944, less than two weeks before he would be part of the D-Day Normandy invasion. Lieutenant McMurtry visited Crowley at his home at the Bell Inn in Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire. Because McMurtry had access to a jeep and petrol, Crowley asked him if he could deliver some papers to Lady Harris in London. Excited at the thought of seeing Harris again, he readily agreed.

It was early evening and the city was blacked out by the time he reached the Harris residence at 3 Devonshire Terrace, Marylebone High Street. As he approached the door, he heard piano music and the sweet tones of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” from inside the Harris home. (McMurtry told me he remembered thinking what an awkward contrast he made – a lanky American soldier in jump boots standing at the door of a genteel gathering.) He knocked, and soon a man dressed in evening-wear opened the door. It was obvious there was a party in progress; a pianist was entertaining guests. McMurtry stated his business and was asked to wait outside the door. In a few moments, Lady Harris opened the door, greeted him politely, and accepted the paperwork with thanks. Then, as she was about to close the door in his face, she turned for a moment and gazed upon the bright warmth of her party – the quiet talk, the Debussy. For a moment, McMurtry was sure she was going to invite him in. Then she turned to look at him, in his uniform and boots and said, “You do understand, of course, I can’t invite you in. It would spoil the mood of the evening.”

Contrary to the absurd published statements that Crowley grew rich from the sales of the Thoth Tarot while Lady Harris went unrecognized and unpaid, neither Harris nor Crowley would live to profit financially from the project, or ever see the paintings properly manifested as tarot cards. Crowley died in December of 1947. Harris visited him a few days before he died. He did not recognize her. She became a co-executor of his will and was among the handful of people who attended his funeral. She also hosted a lavish “curry” wake in his honor in her home in London.


Frieda Harris died in 1962. Crowley, who was noted for rarely saying anything nice about anyone, paid uncharacteristic tribute to her with adulation in the biographical note from The Book of Thoth:

“She devoted her genius to the Work. With incredible rapidity she picked up the rhythm, and with inexhaustible patience submitted to the corrections of the fanatical slave-driver that she had invoked, often painting the same card as many as eight times until it measures up to his Vanadium Steel yardstick! May the passionate “love under will” which she has stored in this Treasury of Truth and Beauty flow forth from the Splendor and Strength of her work to enlighten the world; may this Tarot serve as a chart for the bold seamen of the New Aeon, to guide them across the great Sea of Understanding to the City of the Pyramids.”

Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo DuQuette

For more information on Lady Frieda Harris

Wicca Wednesday – Dianic Genesis & Z. Budapest

Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest is a daunting woman – fiercely independent, impassioned and poetic. Her contributions to the feminist movement and modern wicca are impressive and indisputable. The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries  remains (30 years after its initial publication) a must-read for devotees and students of the divine feminine, despite questions that surround some of its historical assertions and the fervor of its polemic. It is a book as political as it is spiritual, and a reminder that the modern pagan movement was part of that vast,  sociopolitical groundswell that brought about the civil rights era. Some contemporary readers might find Budapest overly strident – but we should all remember how far we have come (how far we still have to go), and the sort of single-minded passion that was necessary to get us here.

from The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, by Z. Budapest, a brief,  lovely passage that seems fitting for Earth Week:

Dianic Genesis

In the beginning there was unknowable silence. She has an unknowable name which echoed through the universe; the power of this name, that no one shall utter, filled the universe with action.

Silence broke into its components, lights and shadows. From these lights action made form, and from the shadows, formlessness. Visible and invisible, she created a blend of the two we know today as Nature.

In this blend of form and formlessness, lights and shadows, visible and invisible, she created all the creatures, making infinite variations of herself as the birthing force, and the different form of her, where she s not so clearly visible, the birthed-in form.

She intermingled with herself, as if she was never divided, and created our solar system, our mother planet, and all the creatures upon it. Among the creatures she ordained, all species will know her either through instinct or through search, but all she created will periodically return to her holiness, and then again take form inside her.

And ever since, the world has been a blend of invisible forms, female and male, and a blend of invisible forms, self-love and self-hate. The divine mixing of these creates reality, for her essence is present in all, but her forms do not conform to temporary social orders. She is the circle of rebirth; thus we celebrate the moment in our lives as an honor to her, she whose Genesis is still happening, she who has not returned to any comfortable heaven to “watch” over us or forget us.

She who creates all reality daily, she who is visible and invisible in Nature, she whose name is secret, she who rules the Universe. The Force of Life and Death and all that is in between. She is All.

Women and the Occult – Sybil Leek

We continue our celebration of ladies on the dark side with a look at one of the first modern occult practitioners to unfurl her cape in public – Sybil Leek.

A hereditary witch who hailed from a small village in Staffordshire England,  Sybil settled in the U.S. after her American publisher pushed her for a book tour (ah, those were the days!) and her U.K. landlord kicked her out for drawing crowds. The relocation worked out rather well for Sybil, as you will see in this excerpt from The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes:

Among the first to emerge from the broom closet, publicly revealing her identity as a witch, Sybil Leek was an accomplished astrologer, fortune-teller, author, lecturer, ghost hunter, and a popular television and radio personality.

Born in what she described as a “witch-ridden” part of Staffordshire, England, near the crossroads of three rivers, Leek’s birthday was February 22, but some controversy exists as to her age. Leek claimed 1922 as her natal year, but printed cards given to mourners at her 1982 memorial service gave the year 1917 instead.

Sybil was a hereditary witch from a family steeped in magic and metaphysics. On her paternal side, she claimed descent from Russian occultists affiliated with Russia’s royal court. Her mother and aunt were both psychics. Her grandmother, a hedge witch and astrologer, prepared charts for such friends and house guests as Lawrence of Arabia and author Thomas Hardy.

Sybil grew up in England’s New Forest region, an area with historic associations with witchcraft. Mainly home-schooled until age eleven, she never had more than a few years of conventional education, but beginning in childhood, Sybil studied witchcraft, occultism, astrology, Kabbalah, and the Bible, as well as Eastern religions, philosophies, and mystical traditions.

Aleister Crowley was a Leek family friend and predicted great things for Sybil. Another family friend, H. G. Wells, author of War of the Worlds, took little Sybil to see her first eclipse. Her grandmother taught Sybil astrology by baking cookies, decorating them with astrological sigils, and asking little Sybil to put them in order or explain their significance before being permitted to eat them. Sybil herself would eventually establish what is described as the world’s first astrological management consulting service.

During World War II, Sybil was a military nurse, serving for a while at the military hospital in Anzio Beach. After the war, she began to ply her trade as an astrologer. Among the clients described in her writings were the future King Hussein of Jordan, Egypt’s King Farouk, and the man who deposed him, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In the 1950s, following the repeal of England’s last law against witchcraft, Sybil began living openly and publicly as a witch. She published a series of articles and was interviewed by the BBC, resulting in much media attention.

For years, Sybil ran an antique store in Burley, Hampshire. As she began to attract notoriety, she was pursued by reporters and the village besieged by tourists. When her landlord declined to renew her lease, she took this as a sign to leave England and travel to the United States. Her original intent was merely to promote a book, but she fell in love with America and elected to stay permanently, emerging as perhaps the first witch celebrity. She gave many interviews, and appeared on the Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin television talk shows. The author of over sixty books, her autobiography, Diary of a Witch, was published in 1969. By the time she died on October 26, 1982 in Melbourne, Florida, Sybil Leek was a millionaire.

For further information on the inspirational Sybil Leek:



Witchcraft: a guide to the misunderstood and maligned

BBC: Inside Out

Women & The Occult – Fat Tuesday Edition – Marie Laveau

I have an embarrassing confession to make – I’ve never been to New Orleans. There. I’ve said it. Y’all are probably tempted right now to revoke my status as a card-carrying American Ghoul and strip me of my poppet collection. But hey, it’s not for lack of desire, only for lack of time and funds.  The Crescent City has always been at or near the top of my places-I-need-to-go-while-I-still-have-my-own-teeth list, for reasons too numerous and obvious to mention here.  Okay … I’ll mention one. Marie Laveau. I need NEED to visit that woman’s crypt – see the offerings and markings for myself and feel that witchy electricity.  I have a friend (who I mention here a lot) who made the pilgrimage when she was in school in Texas. Being young and rash she took home a token from Marie’s grave – a wee crumble of marble – planning to do god-knows-what with it, but not imagining the craziness that would ensue. Long story short – before she could return the crumble to its rightful place she died, was revived, and found her entire being tuned to a wild and dangerous new frequency. Don’t mess with the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans – or her marble crumbles!

Judika Illes is one well acquainted with Saint City, and it’s Queen of the Dead – Marie Laveau. Here’s what she has to say in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches (my go-to book for spooky lads & ladies of history):

Among the most famous magical practitioners in the world, priestess, spirit medium, healer, diviner, and professional spell-caster Marie Laveau organized and formalized modern New Orleans Voodoo and fearlessly became the public face of what had largely been a secret, outlawed tradition. Proclaiming herself the Pope of Voodoo, she was a tremendously public figure in 19th-century New  Orleans, refusing to linger in the shadows. Marie attended mass daily in a Roman Catholic Church and tended the sick during yellow fever epidemics. Notorious in her own lifetime, Marie was credited with many magical feats, including saving clients from disasters. Her specialty was legal work: through her efforts, clients and members of their families were released from prison and rescued from dire straits.

Marie’s personal life remains mysterious. Her birth year is generally considered to be 1801, but it may have been earlier. Of African, European, and Native American ancestry, she was born into a Louisiana family reputedly well-versed in hoodoo and Voodoo. She was a “free person of color,” a legal classification unique to French colonies, as French law distinguished  between enslaved and free people of African ancestry. She was a politically conscious person who secretly helped redeem slaves and worked with the Underground Railroad to speed the endangered into safer territory.

Marie worked as a hairdresser and studied with occult practitioner Dr. John, who served as her mentor and worked closely with her. By about 1850, she was recognized as the leader of the New Orleans Voodoo community. Marie presided over annual St. John’s Eve rituals at Lake Pontchartrain, where she danced with her snake, the Grand Zombi. (Not “zombi” as in the brain-eating, living dead, but a corruption of the name “Simbi,” the magician snake spirit.) She became a famous celebrity. By the 1870s, thousands of spectators, white as well as black, flocked to see Marie’s rituals on St. John’s Eve. (St. John’s Eve coincides with Midsummer’s Eve, a night historically associated with witches’ revelry and ritual.)

According to a famous legend, when Marie was elderly, she entered the lake, submerged, only to reemerge appearing decades younger, in the manner of a snake, rejuvenated after shedding its skin. Some interpret this as proof of her magic powers. Others claim that this was how she secretly and seamlessly retired; passing her clientele to her look-alike daughter who then assumed her mother’s identity. In other words, one woman entered the water but another emerged. Both women were named Marie and used the last name Glapion (name of the husband of one and the father of the other).

Although some believe Marie achieved immortality and roams the French Quarter still, others think she died on June 15, 1881 and that it’s her ghost haunting the Quarter. In death, Marie has achieved the status of a spirit or saint. Her grave in New Orleans’ oldest cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery Number One, is visited by thousands annually who come to pay tribute or beg for favors, which she reputedly delivers. In recent years, Laveau has also taken her place among the lwa, the pantheon of ancestral spirits of Voodoo and Vodou. Devotees consider her to be one of the Ezili family of beautiful, powerful female spirits, many of whom are closely associated with water and snakes.

Marie Laveau’s celebrity status continues to extend today. Several songs in various musical genres pay tribute to her, including “Marie Laveau,” the title of a 1974 song by country singer Bobby Bare. The lyrics, by poet Shel Silverstein, describe Laveau as a “lovely witch.” That song has little to do with the historic Marie—the woman it describes might be any swamp witch—but it hit number one on the U.S. country charts and its popularity furthered Marie’s reputation. A more recent song, Dr. John’s “Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen,” which calls her a “conjure lady,” more accurately recalls her history. Marie is also the subject of novels and biographies. Dolls are crafted in her image for spiritual use and as tourist’s souvenirs.

from The Weiser Field Guide to Witches by Judika Illes

Women & The Occult – Dion Fortune on Western Esoteric Systems

In honor of  Women’s  History Month, Ankhie offers you an excerpt from Dion Fortune’s The Training and Work of an Initiate. Fortune’s influence on modern occultism cannot be overstated, and as you will see from the chapter below, her insights and interpretations of esoteric tradition are as valid and valued today as they were when they were first committed to print over 80 years ago.

The Western Esoteric Systems

The Western Esoteric Systems spring from three main roots, the Qabalistic, the Egyptian and the Greek, and all medieval and modern derivatives can be traced to one or another of these.


Each of these three great systems was developed in response to the needs of a special phase of human evolution, and each one has brought certain aspects of occult science to a high pitch of perfection while correspondingly and inevitable neglecting others.

The Greek system is characterizes by a pantheon which incarnates natural forces; it is primarily a philosophical system. The Egyptian is characterized by animal-headed gods which represent these forces brought through into human consciousness, and is primarily an initiatory system. The Qabalistic is characterized by having no gods at all, being strictly monotheistic, and it is essentially a magical system wherein the magus takes the place of the god.

In the intercommunications of peoples these systems have mutually influenced each other and had innumerable special developments in different places. The modern stream of Western esotericism not only contains a blend of all of them, but also much that has been derived from Eastern sources through the meditation of the Theosophical Society. Some of the Eastern terms, such as Karma, the Chakras, Manus, etc., have practically replaced the Western terms. No body of knowledge can be kept in a watertight compartment; there must inevitably be an interchange of ideas wherever there is an association of peoples. Analytical Psychology and New Thought have also been laid under contribution, and the result is a kaleidoscopic philosophy which requires much sorting before it reveals any coherent pattern.

In practical occultism it is always necessary to go back to the original root-stocks, because here alone can we strike the trails that lead to the Unseen – the pilgrim ways that have been trodden by innumerable feet. By the meditation and ritual of centuries an organized aura of thought-forms has been built ups around these ancient systems, and it is this prepared mental atmosphere that is of such value to the occultist. I do not say that it is impossible to pass on to the Inner Planes save by one or another of these traditional corridors, but the difficulties of such an undertaking are very great.

An occult school is not built in a day, any more than a great public school is built in a day. Tradition and a highly organized group-mind play a vital part in both. Moreover there are certain planes of manifestation which were worked by the Mystery Schools of previous epochs which are not readily accessible to-day. Evolution has moved on, and we contact the Unseen at a different level. It is very necessary , in any work of practical occultism, that we have access to the full range of the planes, because every operation is composite and has its relations to the planes above and below that upon which it takes place. The occultist finds it essential, therefore, to avail himself of the corridors constructed by his predecessors, to whom the Elemental planes were open. He will therefore always make use of one or another of the ancient systems according to the task he has in hand. Some are best suited for one contact and some for another. It is not advisable to mix the symbols in an operation, because the same forces function differently on different contacts, but it is very necessary for the initiate to have access to the different stages of development and different levels of contact.

There are many methods of consciousness which are entirely modern in their origin and method, and which do not claim to be anything else. These are seen most conspicuously in the many different schools of thought which form the composite New Thought movement. Like all else that deals with the manipulation of the mind, these make use of the principles that have always governed the process of raising consciousness, whether practiced in the Mysteries of Eleusis, the Egyptian temples, the consulting room of the hypnotist, the office of the Christian Science practitioner, or the lodge of initiation of some fraternity.

Where the system employed has no contact with the root traditions, it will be found that the results obtained are purely subjective; it is only when one of the ancient systems is used that contacts are made with the Nature forces, the Elemental and angelic kingdoms, and the earth-soul, because, as has been already noted, these contacts are inaccessible to the operations of the conscious mind… They belong to an earlier epoch.


These archaic levels of manifestation are exceedingly important to the occultist, because it is here that he finds the reservoir of Elemental forces whence he derives his power. As the psycho-analysts have clearly demonstrated, here are the springs of man’s life; here is the fountain-head of genius and all forms of vital energy, mental and spiritual as well as instinctive. The psycho-analyst seeks to tap these reservoirs in order to free his patient from inhibitions. The occultist seeks to tap them in order to increase his psychic power. In one case the abnormal is being made normal; in the other, the normal is being made super-normal.

There is unquestionably an unbroken tradition of initiation in Europe, which has been handed down from adept to neophyte right from the ancient Mysteries. To give demonstrable proof of this fact to outsiders is not easy. Documentary evidence, by the nature of the work, its carefully guarded secrets and the severe persecution to which it has been subjected, being very scanty, and even what little we have is much mutilated and often of doubtful authenticity; but whoever has seen an initiated adept art work cannot doubt that he is in touch with something very potent, and something, moreover, which can be transmitted to another. It is this subjective experience, although it cannot be offered as proof, which forms the most valid evidence of the reality of that which is sought in the Mysteries.

To pick up the contacts of one of these great initiatory systems of the past is like touching an electric battery. They are charged full of psychic force and, like Leyden jars, give out sparks when touched. Any school of occultism which is not connected up with the power-house – however much switches are turned and levers are pulled, nothing happens.

Many folk, because they have never been present when power is actually in manifestation, are content to take the alteration in the position of the switches as being the Great Work, but if they had ever seen the sudden flashing on of the light as the current comes through the wires, they would know what is to be expected of occultism and satisfied with nothing less. The state of the personality, charged full of power and an exceedingly potent form of vitality, is the evidence of the reality of initiation. To what ends this power is turned is a matter which rests entirely in the hands of its possessor, but unless it be rightly handled and kept in the cosmic circuit, it is a thing which will turn to the destruction of the vehicle of its manifestation. Received from the cosmic power-house, it must travel in the appointed circuit, otherwise there is a “short.” If we elect deliberately to put ourselves in the track of these cosmic currents and invoke them to use us as their channels, we must be prepared to become ourselves links in this circuit from spirit to matter and back again. Herein lies the critical point in the work of the adept. Is he in circuit or earthing? This is the distinction between the Right- and Left-hand Paths.

from The Training and Work of an Initiate by Dion Fortune