The British Museum

An extract from Alan Bain’s Autobiographical writings –

The British Museum

The most desirable thing for students of occult subjects in those days was a ticket for the reading room of the British museum. These were not easy to obtain. One had to get a suitable and influential person to sign one’s application as being suitable and safe to use the facilities of the library. I was very fortunate in that Geoffrey Watkins was only too pleased to sign my application, and so it was that I became a proud holder of a ticket for the reading room of the British Museum Library.

The British Museum is a very imposing building. One approaches it from a long flight of steps and enters through huge doors into a large lobby. In the 1950s the museum in itself was still laid out in the 19th century Victorian style. Since then it has become more of an exhibition than a museum. Everything is designed to ensure an even flow of tourists and visitors through the various exhibits. In my time, however, one could wander about more or less at random, many of the exhibits were close to hand and could be approached or even touched. Nowadays, all too many are tucked away behind screens, or in glass exhibition cases with written explanations of the contents. But I detract. On entering the lobby, directly in front of the visitor were two double doors, fairly indistinguishable in themselves. A man in uniform stood nearby. These doors led directly into the great dome which appeared to house the books. The dome was very high and the room circular. Around the circumference were tiers of galleries along which a person could walk and examine the books which crowded the shelves alongside.


The British Museum Reading Room in 2006, before the library moved to a separate building. (Image from Wikimedia Commons, author Diliff).

These books, however, were rarely used, as the important stock was held in a vast labyrinth of many levels below ground. Having shown my ticket to the uniformed man I was able to enter these hallowed precincts. In those days there were no computers. All the book searches had to be made by consulting various indices. For example, there was an author index, a subject index, and a title index. The classification which has remained with me all my life was that for my chosen subject: Occult Science. Not Mythology, not Superstition or anything at all vague. Certainly, Mythology was available as a subject heading, so the inclusion of a separate category for matters occult showed an insight that was unexpected. For the trustees of the British Museum library the study of things occult were considered scientific, to be approached in a manner much the same as any other science subject. I have held the same view ever since. So-called occult studies invariably contain assertions and teachings which are likely as not very difficult to verify. For this reason a scientific approach is absolutely essential. Needless to say, such approaches are extremely difficult to develop!

As I have said elsewhere, most occult literature was unavailable in the bookshops of the day, and equally scarce in public libraries. But here was a public library where very little was scarce. The problem was where to begin. At that time, my main interest lay not so much in astrology as in the occult ramifications which had been derived from it by way of the theosophical allusions in the work of the astrologer – almost the only astrologer whose writings were freely available – Alan Leo.

I had worked my way from astrology to theosophy to Kabbalah, which, in the bookshops, consisted mainly of two or three important titles. One was “The Mystical Qabalah” by Dion Fortune, plus “The Kabbalah Unveiled” by S. L. McGregor Mathers, and Isaac Myers’ “Kabbalah.” Mention was made by Dion Fortune of the infamous Aleister Crowley, but not: single book by him was to be found. At first it was difficult to find him in the British
Museum, as, being scientific, the museum classified authors by their real names and not pseudonyms, although in some references the latter might be added in brackets. To find Crowley, one had to look under Crowley, Edward Alexander. Once this mystery was solved, a vast quantity of writing – one could not call it all literature – was available to be read. It will come as no surprise to my readers that being young and full of the glamour attached to such subjects, I went without hesitation to the so-called “forbidden fruit”.

Over about a year and a half I worked my way through all of Crowley’s writings. It didn’t take too long for me to realise that a huge amount of his work was written with a tongue in cheek, probably as a subtle means of ridiculing a highly esteemed in which frankly ludicrous ideas were held by so many. Crowley himself was, of course, the originator of many of the same ideas, which probably amused him hugely It must be said, however, that among the dross he had written some useful material not least what I consider to be his major work, “The Book of Thoth,” devoted to the tarot, for which he had designed his own set of cards. The actual artwork for these designs was undertaken by one of his followers, Frieda Harris. His book and his cards – or, perhaps I should say, her cards – are still available today.

There were, it is a joy to recall, many gems in the collection held by the library. To sit at a desk beneath that vast dome to read William Lilly’s “Christian Astrology” in the original first edition is an experience that cannot be converted into words. One book 1 have yet to see reprinted is The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians by Franz Hartmann, an early theosophist and student of magic. This was published in New York in the late 1800s and contained some first-class colour plates representing the tree of life of Kabbalah. A better known work of his is Magic Black and White, which has been reprinted a number of times.

The very process of obtaining a book from the library archive was in itself almost occult and arcane. Firstly, one obtained details of the book or books one wished to study which had to be written on a prescribed form. This was then handed to an assistant who stood on a high dais from which all the activity in that the vast circle could be monitored. It will come as no surprise to learn that obtaining the books and bringing them, together with that the form I had filled in, could take some time. As, more often than not, I visited the museum with a colleague, we would both, having handed in our forms, go to a nearby cafe in Museum Street. Many a discussion and sometimes heated argument took place on these occasions.

On returning to the reading room, we would usually find the books we have asked for placed neatly in the space allocated for us. This consisted of a section of what resembled a long construction of cubicles, each with its own chair, together with the form we had filled in, which was a copy of the original. This was how the museum kept track of who had what books, when they had them, and where they read them. I doubt that such trust could be obtained today.

Next extract: The Joy of Reading


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In 1966, Glyn Davies left London for a while and took up residence in a ruined cottage in the Mendip Hills. There he wrote Circum, a novel depicting aspects of esoteric life in the 1950s, and structured around the Tarot trumps.

Cherry Gilchrist has now written an interesting recollection with an extract from the book on the Soho Tree website here.




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The Soho Cabbalists

John Adam Street ca 1956

John Adam Street ca 1956, a meeting place of the group.

Cherry Gilchrist and I have recently put together a new website. The Soho Tree is a website dedicated to unfolding the story of how a group which met in Soho in the 1950s eventually spread out into a number of Cabbalistic-based schools, and has generated work which is very much in the public eye today.

The website gives an overview of the lines of work that developed from this group, and the creative output that has been (and continues to be) generated by those who came into contact with these lines of work.



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Margaret Bain – a Personal Recollection

A Personal Recollection of Margaret Bain
by Colin Low

I thought it might be useful to provide a personal recollection of Margaret Bain, who was also known as Margaret Donleavy and Margaret Shaw. I was both her student and her friend from late-1977 until her death in 1994.

I was a postgraduate student at Cambridge University from 1973 to 1976, and during those years I was a member of the Cambridge University Society for Psychical Research. It was through this society that I was able to meet a wide and diverse circle of people interested in esoteric philosophy and what is often called the Western Esoteric Tradition. Some, like myself, were biased towards the practical aspects, others were wary of practical work and preferred discussion and contemplation. There were open groups and private circles who met from time to time to discuss and study subjects such as Kabbalah. In 1976 my study grant ended and I moved to London, but I continued to visit Cambridge regularly for many years.

I first heard of Margaret Bain in connection with a talk she had given in Cambridge in conjunction with Douglas Donleavy. I was in London at the time but quickly discovered that several friends and acquaintances had approached the couple as potential students. Until that time I had been self-taught and like so many I was wary of “teachers”. I was smart enough, (I thought), I had spent some years dabbling with ritual, and I had all the books. Did I need a teacher?

I continued to hear interesting things through the grapevine, and I discovered that Margaret and Douglas were living in a flat in Petherton Road in Hackney. I was living in a flat opposite the Lubavitch in Stamford Hill and it was a modest cycle ride away – in London terms they were almost next door. I think it was the autumn of 1977 when I decided to meet with Margaret and Douglas. I met informally with them at their flat for a few months and then decided formally to become a student. By “formally” I mean that there was a list of things I was required to do, and I did those things.

Perhaps the deciding factor for me was Margaret’s willingness to talk, indefinitely and exhaustively. I felt heard, not patronised with esoteric gobbledygook. There was more than a hint of Socratic method. I could argue until I was blue in the face and Margaret would argue back. Margaret had many opinions, but they were grounded in thought and argument, and for the most part she did not stand on authority. A consequence of her tendency to hold everything up for inspection was that her knowledge of Kabbalah, both experiential and practical, was deep, substantial, and profoundly intuitive.

Another important factor in my decision to become her student was what she called “devotion to the Work”. Devotion to the Work meant everything to her. Like most people she had a well-defined ego to cope with the necessities of daily life, but she also had a divine connection, and it was living within the larger context of a divine connection that gave her meaning and purpose. Part of her purpose was to assist others to form their own connection with the divine – this was an important part of “the Work”. Unlike many esoteric teachers she did not try to shape a person’s beliefs. She gave her students knowledge, tools, and advice, within a mentoring relationship that was often hugely time-consuming. This clarity and purity of intention resonated with me.

Her feisty and argumentative nature, her clarity, and her purity of purpose did not resonate with everyone. She had encountered a great deal of glamour in the esoteric scene – what she characterised as “beads and chiffon” – and in private she would make fun of it. She smoked like a chimney, and she enjoyed a party and a glass of gin, and it was easy to misjudge her. Many did. I think some of that was intentional, in the manner of the crazy wisdom tradition in Tibet. She could be evasive and elusive. She created a screen of smoke, both literal and metaphorical.

Margaret’s forte, the thing that set her apart from so many occultists, was her understanding of what is called high or ceremonial magic, what I prefer to call theurgy. Just as “theology” means God-knowledge, so “theurgy” means God-work. It is an axiom of the Hermetic worldview that human beings have descended into this world, retain a divine connection, and can regain their forgotten status. One could choose to grow and change using practical means. Margaret had a well-developed programme of work for the prospective student.

It is said that “lesser artists borrow, great artists steal” and the mark of a great artist is the extent to which they create something new and innovative from the work of others. Margaret’s theurgy seemed to be grounded in something much older than the complex syncretic collage of the Golden Dawn and many later offshoots. There were clearly influences from late-19th and early-20th century British esoterism but the spirit was much closer to the theurgy of Iamblichus and the practical Kabbalah of Joseph Gikatilla (as suggested by hints in his Gates of Light). I cannot say where it came from, and after forty years and a great deal of reading I am still none the wiser.

In addition to kabbalistic theurgy, Margaret had worked with other traditional magical systems such as planetary spirits and Solomonic magic. In the mid ‘80s she embarked on the Abramelin procedure. There was nothing half-hearted or equivocal about her commitment to ritual magic. Her views on good and evil were derived from The Cosmic Doctrine (see below) and not from Dennis Wheatley or Marie Corelli.

I believe her primary influences were a close circle of friends that included her husband Alan Bain, the kabbalist Glyn Davies, and I believe also Warren Kenton, better known as Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi. [When I asked Warren about Margaret he looked puzzled, but Margaret said he slept on her sofa, and additional third-party anecdotal evidence suggests that they had indeed been in the same circle].

Another essential influence was Dion Fortune. Dion Fortune died in 1947 when Margaret was only 13, so they did not meet, but Alan Bain and Margaret lived in Glastonbury in the mid-60s. I recall that they either owned or ran a shop. Fortune had extensive connections with the town and is buried in the town cemetery. It would have been possible to meet people who knew and had worked with Fortune. Margaret had read everything by Fortune, and her recommended text for students was Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah. Her interest extended to a thorough and detailed understanding of one of Fortune’s less accessible channeled works, The Cosmic Doctrine.

Margaret had three children, a son and two daughters. All were living independently when I met her in 1978. I gained the impression that her life had been an incessant struggle against limited means and outright poverty. When I first met her she was completing a university degree and putting the final touches on her thesis. It was awarded, and I wish I could recall the university and subject. She had a fierce and restless energy that refused to be constrained by the difficult conditions of her life.

When her relationship with Douglas Donleavy ended she found herself homeless and after some months of sleeping on floors she moved in with a much younger student, Robert Shaw, who had a flat in a dilapidated block off the Mile End Road in London. Robert was a glamorous figure: privately educated, Territorial Parachute Regiment, upper-class accent, and a member (through his mother) of the renowned Peel family of Knowlmere Manor near Clitheroe in Lancashire. He had an extraordinary energy that he described as “Mars in Aries Rising”. They married in October of 1982 and bought a small terrace house in Stratford. Despite his background Robert had little money and an erratic income from a business on the fringes of the financial sector. For a time he had a small office in Hatton Garden. I knew something of the magical work they were attempting and it was extraordinary and intense. Unwise? Possibly, but anything extraordinary and intense tends to be unwise.

The relationship ended badly. Robert sold the house from under Margaret’s feet without telling her and she had only a couple of days to move out and find somewhere to live. After some expensive misadventures she declared herself homeless and went into council homeless accommodation for about nine months. By this point her health was failing badly. She had already had a triple heart bypass and the stress of the desertion broke her, mentally and physically. For a time she went to pieces and could barely function. I was there and I saw it. She was given a pleasant new-build retirement home in Forest Gate, but her life was a struggle against a failing heart, broken in more ways than one. I believe the precious manuscript of her book had gone astray and she retyped it from memory. This manuscript, titled “Kingdom at your Feet” (a reference to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life) exists in a small number of copies but has not been published. She died in 1994 shortly after her sixtieth birthday.

Robert Shaw did not fare well, and he had his own health problems. He resurfaced as Robert Bloynan in the year 2000 in a Daily Mail article on near-death experiences. He told how, in the year 1994 (the year Margaret died) he had a series of increasingly severe epileptic fits and intense visionary experiences. These were caused by a malignant brain tumour. Although he was recovered at the time of the article, he died in Hampshire in 2006 at the age of fifty.

Margaret had a large stone that she called Rockwax. All her students knew it well. Jewish legend tells of a stone that fell from heaven and formed the seed around which all reality condensed. Jacob rested his head upon the same stone at Bethel when he dreamed of a ladder connecting earth to heaven. It was the foundation stone of the great Temple of Solomon. The name “Rockwax” suggests the solidity and stability of stone, and the mutability of the clay from which we all come, and to which we all return. It was for these many associations that her students chose “Rockwax” as the name for a foundation dedicated to preserving Margaret Bain’s memory and teaching.

© Colin Low, 2019

Colin Low is the author of The Hermetic Kabbalah (2015) and Playing the Fool: An Exposition of Tarot (2017). He maintains the Hermetic Kabbalah website, and is chairman of the Rockwax Foundation, a charity created to improve public understanding of the Hermetic Tradition.

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Cabalistic Astrology


The following article was originally published in Issue 3 of ARC in 1973. It follows on from a previous article presenting a way of using the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to organise the astrological planets and signs. A diagram showing the triads representing the different signs has been added for clarity, and some notes have been added in square brackets.

The allocation of Hebrew letters to the paths is the same as that found in the Galgal fortune-telling game, following the path of the lighting flash down the tree, with letters allocated at each step of the lightning flash to complete connections to all the previously visited sephirot.

It seems most likely that ‘Querent’ was a pen-name for Glyn Davies, one of the creators of Galgal. The Galgal fortune-telling game was reworked in 2002 into the Tree of Life Oracle, by Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur, and a discussion of the allocation of letters to the paths is given in the introduction.


by Querent

In a previous issue of ARC, we considered a system of Cabbalistic Astrology which had many possible consequences. This article examines these in slightly greater depth.

The Tree, readers may remember, was of eight planets, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, plus M/C and ascendant. These were joined by 22 lines to which are assigned letters of the Hebrew Alphabet [See Diagram below]. These letters have names in Hebrew and the meaning of the names is taken from the root word.


Planets, Signs and Hebrew Letters

Let us take two signs: Leo and Cancer, ruled by Sun and Moon respectively, and consider them in diagrammatic form.


It may be seen that each sign may be looked at as either having 3 decanates or 6 faces. To summarise reviewing the signs as decanates, we find:


1st decan. nature of Uranus and M.C. Meaning of Hebrew Root:
Leader, domesticator, multiply.

2nd decan. nature of Uranus and Saturn. Meaning of Hebrew Root:
Family, Clan, House, Dwelling.

3rd decan. nature of Saturn and M.C. Meaning of Hebrew Root:
Wean, reward, fruitfulness, adolescence, a period. [and also payment and completion of a stage according to the table below].

Now the implications of this method are: That each planet in the horoscope can be read as having:

  1. Its own nature.
  2. The nature of the sign that it is in.
  3. The nature of the decanate in which it is.
  4. Whether it accords with the nature of that decanate.

For instance, consider Mars in the 3rd decanate of Leo. We can see that this decanate is of a nature that is rewarding and fruitful, that it represents an area of payment for completion. But Mars does not accord greatly with either M.C. or Saturn – it will demand its payment, its completion as of right. It will insist on the law being carried out. It will be litigious.

The reasoning above may be applied to all the decans and we have given a table which contains all the decans of the signs, their nature and the Hebrew letter associated with it together with the meanings of its rootword. Also the Hebrew meanings for the whole sign.

To give an idea of how this may be applied. Take your own horoscope, note down the signs in which each planet is situated and the decanate of it. Then the Hebrew meaning of the sign and the planet, then the Hebrew meaning of the decanate. This, as in the example above:- Mars Judgement Leo Pride, Well, 3rd Decan. Nature – Understanding of Royalty. Obviously a quality of Kings! or administrators!!

To apply the method to six faces:- As each triad contains three planetary points and three paths, let the decan be split between the Sephira that begins the 1st face, then the path and so on. There is a school which splits the decanate into ten, giving meanings for each degree by setting out a circle of ten – i.e. Royalty, Wisdom, Understanding, Love, Judgement, Knowledge, Repetition, Recognition, Experience, Sense. [1]. Royalty then, the first point of the Decanate is, in the case of [2] in the third decanate of Understanding which is equal to twenty-one degrees of Leo. Therefore twenty-eight degrees of Leo is Sensual.

Let us take another example: Say Jupiter is 17˚ Gemini. That is a serpent. Second decanate, mouth, speech. The decanate’s nature is Recognition of Experience. 17° = Love. Jupiter = Love. Therefore Love is emphasised twice and is related to Recognition of Experience of Love, allied with serpent – and speech. Interesting, No?

Now the foregoing is quite complex but in practice, there are many keys and it should with a little practice be easy to give an esoteric reading, for that is of course, the real use of this method. Occult groups should be able to develop the theory a lot further and the writer would be pleased to receive comments care of this magazine.


1st decan. Letter: Aleph. Meanings: Thousands, domesticate, leader, first. [multiply]
Nature of Path: Royal Wisdom.

2nd decan. Letter: Beth. Meanings: family, clan, house, home, place.
Nature of Path: Wise Understanding.

3rd decan. Letter: Gimel. Meanings: Maturity, meaning, reward, payment, completion of a stage. Nature of Path: Understanding of Royalty.

Hebrew meaning of Leo: A well, pride, Giba


1st decan. Letter: Peh. Meanings: mouth, orifice, speech.
Nature of Path: Recognition of Experience.

2nd decan. Letter: Resh. Meanings: beginning, head, first, top, highest.
Nature of Path: Experience of the Senses.

3rd decan. Letter: Taveh. Meanings: Mark, symbol, letter, scar.
Nature of Path: Sensory Recognition.

Hebrew meaning of Virgo: Fruitfulness, cattle.


1st decan. Letter: Lamed, Meanings: teach, goad, learn by rote, repetition.
Nature of Path: Perpetuation of Knowledge.

2nd decan. Letter: Zaddi. Meanings: honesty, integrity, justice.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Experience.

3rd decan. Letter: Qoof. Meanings: to encircle, surround, imitate.
Nature of Path: Perpetuation of Experience.

Hebrew meaning of Libra: To strike at, to finish.


1st decan. Letter: Zayin. Meanings: to hear, to listen, to pierce, to weigh.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Judgement.

2nd decan. Letter: Samech. Meanings: to support, aid, held, hold firm.
Nature of Path: Judgement of Recognition.

3rd decan. Letter: Ayin. Meanings: to study, to examine, a well.
Nature of Path: Recognition of Knowledge.

Hebrew meaning of Scorpio: strength, power.


1st decan. Letter: Daleth. Meanings: a hanging, a doorway, dependency.
Nature of Path: Love of Wisdom.

2nd decan. Letter: Tet. Meanings: a covering, to draft, clay.
Nature of Path: Wise Knowledge.

3rd decan. Letter: Caph. Meanings: to submit, to lend, to hold, weigh.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Love.

Hebrew meaning of Sagittarius: to be brought low, to contain.


1st decan. Letter: Gimel. Meanings: to complete, a stage, to be rewarded.

Nature of Path: Understanding of Royalty.

2nd decan. Letter: Cheth. Meanings: fear, awe, a thread.
Nature of Path: Royal Knowledge.

3rd decan. Letter: Yodeh. Meanings: to point, to direct, to throw.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Understanding.

Hebrew meaning of Capricorn: To gush forth.


1st decan. Letter: Aleph. Meanings: to multiply, to lead, to domesticate.
Nature of Path: Wisdom of Royalty.

2nd decan. Letter: Cheth. Meanings: awe, fear, a thread.
Nature of Path: Royal Knowledge.

3rd decan. Letter: Tet. Meanings: to draft, to erase, day.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Wisdom.

Hebrew meaning of Aquarius: sin and atonement.


1st decan. Letter: Caph. Meanings: to submit, to bend, to incline, to weigh.
Nature of Path: Love of Knowledge.

2nd decan. Letter: Lamed. Meanings: to learn, to teach, to goad.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Perpetuation.

3rd decan. Letter: Mem. Meaning: water, flow, river, sea.
Nature of Path: Desire to Love.

Hebrew meaning of Pisces: poverty and kingship


1st decan. Letter: Vav. Meaning: a look, a fixing.
Nature of Path: Understanding of Judgement.

2nd decan. Letter: Zayin. Meaning: to listen, to hear, to pierce, to weigh.

3rd decan. Letter: Yadeh. Meaning: to throw, to mount, to direct.

Hebrew meaning of Aries: Light, Illumination, Spring.


1st decan. Letter: Qoof. Meaning: to imitate, to surround, to encircle.

Nature of Path: Desire to Experience.

2nd decan. Letter: Resh. Meaning: Beginning, head, start, top, first.
Nature of Path: Experience of the Senses.

3rd decan. Letter: Shin. Meaning: tooth, repeat, grind.
Nature of Path: Sensory Desires.

Hebrew meaning of Taurus: To solidify, a plank.


1st decan. Letter: Ayin. Meaning: to study, examine, a well.
Nature of Path: Knowledge of Recognition.

2nd decan. Letter: Peh. Meaning: an orifice, a mouth, speech.
Nature of Path: Recognition of Experience.

3rd decan. Letter: Zaddiq. Meaning: integrity, honesty, justice.
Nature of Path: Experience of Knowledge.

Hebrew meaning of Gemini: a serpent.


1st decan. Letter: Nun. Meaning: to establish, to grow, to decay
Nature of Path: recognition of desire.

2nd decan. Letter: Shin. Meaning: tooth, to grind, to repeat.
Nature of path: Desire to sense.

3rd decan. Letter Taveh. Meaning: a mark, a star, a symbol, a label.
Nature of Path: Sensory Recognition.

Hebrew meaning of Cancer: a cycle, a sleep, a month, a year.


[1] Note the different names used for the Sephira from the first article: Love is used here instead of Expansion; Judgement instead of Limitation; Repetition instead of Perpetuation; and Recognition instead of Communication.

[2] These two examples seem a little confusing. My interpretation (which may be incorrect) is as follows:

The first example is looking again at Mars in the third decanate of Leo. The third decanate ranges from 20˚ to 29˚ Leo. Because the third decanate is represented by the path from Understanding to Royalty, it starts at Understanding, so the first full degree (21˚) is Understanding, then (working down the tree) 22˚ Love, 23˚ Judgement, 24˚ Knowledge, 25˚ Repetition, 26˚ Recognition, 27˚ Experience, and 28˚ Sense.

The second example is Jupiter at 17˚ Gemini. This is in the second decanate of Gemini, ranging from 10˚ to 19˚, represented by the path from Recognition to Experience. Because the decanate starts at Recognition, the first full degree (11˚) is Recognition, The degrees are thus: 11˚ Recognition, 12˚ Experience, 13˚ Sense, 14˚ Royalty, 15˚ Wisdom, 16˚ Understanding, 17˚ Love. Thus 17° = Love as stated.




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A New Astrology


The following article was originally published in Issue 1 of ARC in 1973. It presents a way of using the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to organise the astrological planets and signs. A diagram showing the triads representing the different signs has been added for clarity. There is a second article by ‘Querent’ in Issue 3 of ARC, called Cabalistic Astrology which follows on from this one.

Both of these articles include similar material to that found in the Galgal fortune-telling game mentioned in the text. It seems most likely that ‘Querent’ was a pen-name for Glyn Davies, one of the creators of Galgal. The Galgal fortune-telling game was reworked in 2002 into the Tree of Life Oracle, by Cherry Gilchrist and Gila Zur.


by Querent

Many years ago when I was a trainee member of one of those obscure groups that flourish in the occult world, I was, under great vows of secrecy, (shades of creepy Crowlies ?) given a method of arranging the signs of the zodiac on the Jewish Tree of Life, and very useful to me it was. However, the point of the story is this: Last week I was passing a very well-known bookshop in Cecil Court, and what did I see in the window but a disguised version of the knowledge which had been passed to me so secretly, which had been turned into a fortune-telling* game! In my opinion, this releases me from any obligation to keep quiet about it.

Later on in this article, you will find the Glyph of the Tree of Life. These are ten principles connected by 22 lines which form 12 so called external triangles – that is triangles which can contain the remainder of the glyph – and 4 internal triangles, which supposedly apply to Body, Psychology, Soul and Spirit.

The names of the 10 principles given to me were:
Royalty, Wisdom, Understanding, Expansion, Limitation, Knowledge, Perpetuation, Communication, Experience and Sense.

Royalty is assigned to the M/C. Wisdom to Uranus, Understanding to Saturn, Expansion to Jupiter, Limitation to Mars, Knowledge to Sun, Perpetuation to Venus, Communication to Mercury, Experience to the Moon, and Senses to the Ascendant.

The external triangles are as follows: Royalty, Wisdom and Understanding; which nicely agrees with Leo. Royalty, Wisdom and Knowledge; perhaps too high an estimation of Aquarius, Capricorn is the triangle delineated by Royalty, Knowledge and Understanding. Sagittarius is the triangle, Wisdom, Expansion and Knowledge. Aries by Understanding Knowledge and Limitation. The triangle, Expansion, Knowledge and Perpetuation is given Pisces; and Scorpio is outlined by Limitation, Communication and Knowledge. Two signs contain both Knowledge and Experience:- Gemini, which is completed by Communication, and Libra which is completed by Perpetuation.

The remaining three signs are Cancer, Taurus and Virgo, which according to this schema are sense oriented. Cancer is Communication, Perpetuation and Sensual; Taurus is Perpetuation, Experience and Sense. Virgo is Communication, Experience and Sense.


The Astrological Tree


The Triads


From the glyph it can be seen that the Sun has three lines which go to the three principles of Royalty, Wisdom and Understanding. It could therefore be called the centre of Leo. That is to say, that Knowledge in the Horoscope works best if Sun is connected to the M/C, Uranus or Saturn, or is in the sign, Leo.

The Moon also has three lines which go to the Ascendant, Mercury and Venus. This triangle is Cancer. It follows, therefore, from the theory, that Moon operates best in Cancer. And Experience, best through Mercury or Venus or the Ascendant.

The sign, Capricorn as we know, is governed by Saturn, and shares lines with Aquarius and Aries. It is connected to M/C, Uranus, Sun and Mars. Understanding in the horoscope operates best when connected to Wisdom, Knowledge, Limitation (Discipline?) and Royalty.

Aquarius is governed by Uranus and is connected to the M/C, Saturn, Sun and Jupiter. It operates well in the horoscope when it is aided by Expansion and Knowledge; Royalty and Understanding.

When Mars is at its most powerful, it is in touch with Understanding (Saturn). Expansion (Jupiter), knowledge (Sun), and, very importantly, Communication. It should be in either Aries or Scorpio.

If Jupiter should be strong, you should find it either in the sign Sagittarius or Pisces, and it should have aspects to Uranus, Sun, Mars or Venus – that is, Wisdom, Knowledge, Limitation or Perpetuation.

When dealing with Mercury it would seem that if the glyph be a good one it should operate best in Scorpio, Gemini or Virgo, and be connected to Mars, Sun, Moon, Venus or Ascendant That is Communication is strongest if it be aspected to Limitation (Discipline), Knowledge, Perpetuation, Experience or Senses.

Venus, it follows can operate well in Pisces, Libra or Taurus, and should ideally be connected either by aspect or Mutual Reception to Jupiter, Sun, Mercury, Moon and Ascendant. – That is, Perpetuation, is ensured if it has connection to Sense, Knowledge, Expansion, Experience or Communication.

From the foregoing it can be seen that it is possible to draw up a horoscope in the form of a Tree of Life. Warnings should however be given. An easy aspect in a horoscope may make the person lazy while a difficult aspect can be the cause of much hard work to overcome the handicap.

Even no aspect can be useful inasmuch as the person feels a lack in themselves, and goes out of the way to seek out these missing factors. From an occult point of view, all planetary configurations must be knowingly balanced. In order to do this parallels and conjunctions need to be separated out and known, missing connections between the sun and planets must be made strong, so that each principle in the horoscope is available for use, as and when necessary.

Let us now look at Mercury and Venus. These must be identified. This is fairly easy – they do not go far from the Sun and are therefore most nearly related to the essence embodied. Development of the faculties of Communication (Echoing) and Perpetuation (Habit and Desire) means a clear and accurate understanding of the processes by which we recognise all received data and the Habitual responses which arise therefrom, so that it is easy to instruct the organism in the way in which it should go. To this end it should study and learn habits that are useful to it. (It is a fatal mistake to try and change an already existent habit. Far better to leave it alone and develop a new one. The other will then fail by disuse.) So that the psychological soul is at one’s command.

The next pair are Mars and Jupiter. These represent the faculties of Judgement and Expansion. In the case of Mars, one must see what is at the root of the limits which one sets on life. Whether these disciplines and constraints are in fact natural to one’s essence, or whether they have been learned from others without any understanding of their need for these limitations. For Mars acts in order to protect the organism and by controlling the channels of life-giving power in the same way that damming water makes power available to turn the hydro-electric generators.

Jupiter is the natural outflow, the result of love. All life wishes to expand to include within itself all other things – the need to express oneself in larger and larger areas. Now in the individual these two powers with the Sun represent the individual soul, and inevitably need to be balanced or purified. This is done by mitigating the tendency to judge, and the control of growth so that it does not damage others but gives them the possibility to expand also. It is noticeable that if one country expands then others must contract, and that under the condition of imperialism it must be highly discipline so that when the discipline relaxes which is usually at the point of maximum expansion, it withdraws its limits further and further back to its own centre at which time another imperialist disciplined power takes over.

These are necessarily sketchy outlines. There is more to be seen, and further study of the glyph will be very fruitful, to that sort of mind which gravitates to studying astrology. There remains the triad which represents the Spirit. In this case, the three principles involved are Sun, Saturn and Uranus. Understanding is necessary to Wisdom and vice versa. Together with Knowledge they form a major triad which can be considered as the essence of that power of the mind which works underground, dictating the path of life governing the decisions of life which seem so small but are concerned with the total life, rather than incidents on the way. Their keynote is silence, the deep silence within which, formless though it may seem, is yet the most powerful source we can find. It is important to realise that it does not operate through word or symbol and its experience is not communicable except to others in the same state at the same time. Its scale precludes the use of language, and if one does attempt to describe the experience it will be a lie. Nevertheless one must make the attempt. One may sometimes sense its presence by the impression of importance which attaches to the most odd things.

*The Fortune-telling Game referred to is called, “Galgal”, published by Scot of the Covert, London. (See review section.)



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The Western Trisystem


The following article was originally published in Issue 3 of ARC in 1973. It addresses the need for a system of self-development which caters for intellect, feeling and action. The proposal is to combine Witchcraft, the Grail quest and Qabalah, and Colin begins by reformulating the tree of life. Colin Couchman worked in number of traditions such as Witchcraft, Gurdjieff/Ouspensky and Kabbalah.


 Colin Couchman

(The following article is based upon a talk given by the author to the Esoteric Conference held in March 1972. Some revision has been carried out to reflect the changed medium of communication and additional material, for which insufficient time was available at the conference, has been incorporated. Finally various peripheral comments have been removed from the main stream of the argument and placed in a separate notes section.)


It was Caesar who first observed that the Gauls were all divided into three parts. Had he generalised his insight to all humanity he would have anticipated by nearly a century the doctrine of the Trinity.

This tripartite nature of man, sometimes vulgarly referred to as ‘head, heart and guts’, consists of a thinking principle – the intellect, a feeling principle and a principle of sensation, action and reaction. In the context of the psycho-spiritual development of man these three parts may be seen as differing in aim and function. With respect to aim intellect seeks the true, feeling the beautiful and the powers of sense and action the good; while functionally feeling can show us where to aim, intellect can tell us how to get there and the third function can carry out the work.

Religion is concerned with making men whole: it must therefore speak to all three parts of man. In general, single religious systems are strongly biased towards one or another of man’s functions. This is only an apparent defect as such systems seem designed to offset the cultural attitude prevailing at the time of their emergence. We may, for instance, consider the development of Zen Buddhism; with its emphasis on spontaneity of action, amid the highly formalised society of Japan. An even better example is to be found in a comparison of two corresponding creation myths. The first of these is taken from Hindu sources and it first appeared within a culture much given to feeling. It tells first of how the One named Himself with the sacred syllable ‘AUM’; it goes on to demonstrate, by methods reminiscent of Euclid, that the naming of a thing is equivalent to the imposition of limitations upon it and it concludes by stating that the Universe is simply that part of the One which was so limited. The equivalent Christian myth, born amid the full flowering of Greek intellectualism, is well known:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”

The balanced development of man requires the use of three complementary systems. Such an arrangement is known as ‘mixing systems’ and is not viewed with much favour by most reputable occultists. We must not, however, forget that the Golden Dawn, which laid the foundations of much modern occultism, worked with a synthesis of many traditions.

In this paper I hope to construct a balanced tripartite system and so demonstrate that such an arrangement is permissible provided two criteria are met: first that the systems chosen should fit together without strain on either and second that the resultant fusion be in accord with the facts of human experience both mystical and mundane. The occult revival pioneered by the Theosophical Society drew largely on oriental sources and a reaction arose which claimed that we would be better served by the traditions of our own cultural heritage. The systems used in the synthesis are therefore chosen from western tradition.

o  o  o  o  o

The part of the fusion that is concerned with sensation and action must speak to the body and to that part of the mind most closely associated with it. Such systems have arisen early in man’s history; they are concerned with both worship and magic; they use physical methods such as rhythm and the dance, the utterance of cries and, in some cases, orgiastic practices; they see the divine embodied in all things and all things joined in the divine. A modern example of such a cult is commonly known as witchcraft.

For the purposes of esoteric work feeling is concerned with aims. Food for feeling is therefore to be found among the quest traditions. There are many such from our part of the world: The Grail Quest, The Quest of the Philosopher’s Stone, The Quest for the Temple built without hands and the Quest of the Golden Fleece to name but a few. Of these the Grail Quest will be used in view of the general appeal of this tradition.

The importance of this part of the fusion cannot be overestimated as there exists a stage on the way where thought yields only confusion, practice yields only frustration and nothing remains save those three great powers of feeling of which Saint Paul said, “There abide these three…”

For the delight of intellect few systems match the Qabalah. The Qabalah, as practised in Gentile circles, centres almost exclusively round a glyph known as the Otz Chiim, The Tree of Life. An irreverent friend once referred to it as an intellectual pinball machine.


The first stage in the formation of the Trisystem is the redefinition of this glyph without reference to Hebrew tradition – in other words its redefinition in Witchcraft terms and in terms of our knowledge of the nature of things.

The Tree must first be built in terms of observation and experience. To ensure generality three objects, differing widely in provenance and property are used as examples. The first of these is man himself, the second a creature of man’s socio-economic environment such as a large company and the third is a fairly complex physical object such as a radio set. The first appearances of these things make up their outward manifestation. In the case of man this consists of his appearance and personality, in that of a company it is its product and so called ‘image’ and, as far as the radio is concerned, there is its physical appearance which includes the sound coming from it.


A look behind these surface appearances reveals apparent chaos holding the manifestation in existence. Man’s psyche may be seen as a mass of thoughts, ideas and desires flashing across the screen of consciousness without pattern or purpose. Similarly an uninitiated visitor to the premises of a company would see clerks and workmen engaged in various apparently unrelated tasks. Finally science tells us that physical objects such as the radio are made up of electrons, atoms and molecules all of which are in a state of furious random motion.


A yet deeper look in search of meaning reveals a further world which orders the chaos so as to produce a persistent and coherent manifestation. This is a world of patterns: of habits and fixed beliefs in the case of man; of organisational relationships in the company and in the case of the radio, of the pattern of physical forces which lock the ever-moving molecules into a stable whole.


Such a system remains without purpose and would do nothing as it lacks a driving force. Looking at this level one sees that men are driven by desires as are companies, the profit motive for example, and the radio is, of course, driven by electricity.


This structure is still not an individual creature and one has to look still further to find its individual nature or essence. This is the ‘I’ of man, the purpose and tradition which make the company unique and the functions and mechanisms designed into the radio.


Further investigation takes one beyond the single creature. One must therefore ask what governs creatures, what controls their rise and fall. The simplest answer is that wants and needs do. If a need exists for certain skills or products the man or company possessing these things will flourish, possibly at the expense of others, only to fall again when the need passes. [1] Luck in this world consists of being what is needed since it is a world utterly indifferent to individuals.


Extending ones awareness to its limit one may dimly perceive that all this exists within a great sea of life.


Like the world of destiny this life force is responsive to need and it changes itself into many forms to nourish the worlds beneath. [2]


This vision has reached the edge of Creation and it is halted by the Abyss….

O o O o O

(This article will continue in the next issue. For the convenience of readers, we insert the relevant footnotes at the end of each part.)

[1] The diagonal relationship held by kabbalists to exist between the sepheroth Gevurah and Netzach is brought out in this formulation as the relationship between the need-driven world of Destiny and the world of drives.

[2] Since water is commonly used to symbolise the Life Force the changeable nature of this force may explain the shape-shifting abilities ascribed to many gods of elemental water.


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