Ernest Page and the Order of the Sacred Word

photo-Ernest-Page-from Adocentyn site Ernest Page was a well-known character in the Soho Cafés of the 1950s and 60s. He was gentle man, an astrologer and a poet, often to be seen at a quiet table drawing up a horoscope for one of his clients. Living on the streets himself, he was always ready to help those in need. He was remembered by many of the Soho Cabbalists (see Soho-tree.com) as a friend and a teacher of astrology. He was also deeply involved with a secret magical order called the Order of the Sacred Word. (The Latin name of the order was Ordo Sacri Verbi, shortened to O.S.V.).

We’ve not come across any suggestion that any of the Soho Cabbalists knew about Ernest’s involvement with the O.S.V., despite the fact that the O.S.V. practised a type of magical ritual apparently based on Qabalah. Perhaps Ernest’s discretion prevented him from discussing it, or possibly some Soho Cabalists that we have not been able to interview did have a connection with the O.S.V. through Ernest. Certainly in some branches of the “Soho Tree”, magical ritual has played an important role.

This article attempts to collate information about Ernest Page’s involvement with the O.S.V., but inevitably, it highlights how little we know. Perhaps one day more information will come to light.

History of the O.S.V.

All our information about the O.S.V. comes from the husband-and-wife team of Vivian Godfrey and Leon Barcynski, who wrote a series of books about it in the 1970s under the pen names of Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. A history of the Order is given in their first book Magical Philosophy, published in 1974 [1]. The older part of the history has been disputed, but it seems reasonable to believe that at least the recent history, as witnessed by the authors from the 1960s and maybe earlier is accurate.

vivian godfrey from obod website                  Magical Philosophy Book 1 Cover

Vivian Godfrey and the front cover of The Magical Philosophy Book I

The O.S.V. was an offshoot of an order called Aurum Solis, which was founded in 1897. The name Aurum Solis (‘Gold of the Sun’) “recalled not only the patient work of the medieval Alchemists but also the objective which they had sought, the transmutation to pure solar gold and all which it symbolises. Central to the life of the Aurum Solis is the fact of Adepthood, that change in the ground of spiritual consciousness which signalises the magician’s entry into the mystical domain of the Higher Self: and it is the prime concern of the Order to bring its members to that attainment.” [2].

The framework of the Qabalah was used in the Aurum Solis, and much work had been done “clarifying the essentials of the Qabalah, freeing them from doctrinal bias and stripping away the non-essentials.” Also, as an order functioning in Britain, it based much of its work on Celtic contacts, including celebration of the four fire-festivals and ceremonies at sacred sites. (See below for more on Vivian Godfrey’s connection to the Druid Order).

According to the Aurum Solis website [3], the order was re-organised after the second world war, and in 1952 a new Grand Master, Michael Bernard Foy, was appointed. Four year later, in 1956, the Aurum Solis faced a crisis over different approaches to ritual, and the following year, a group broke off to form the O.S.V. Foy remained as Grand Master of Aurum Solis, and the O.S.V. was initially governed by a council of three members. In 1959 Ernest Page became the Warden of O.S.V. and began working for the reunion of the Order with the Aurum Solis. It wasn’t until 1971, after Ernest’s death, that this reunion would take place.

The work of the O.S.V.

According to The Magical Philosophy the Order of the Sacred Word took its name from “a mystical word known to Qabalists, which not only signifies but also symbolises in its structure, the descent of Spirit into Matter.”

We don’t know much about the O.S.V. rituals, but there is a little bit of information in the Magical Philosophy. In Chapter 1, the opening speech in a “formerly-used Neophyte Initiation Ritual of the Order of the Sacred Word” is quoted as follows:

“Now is this Temple become a diamond of rainbow-flashing dew, a rose of fire shining out from the mists of the world. Now are we who stand within the sacred place gathered together not as Children of Earth, but as Gods. For our purpose is the Great Work, which we follow beyond time, and our meaning is Mystery. We raise our arms, and the vast powers of creation and destruction are but a little beyond our fingertips. We raise our heads, and we hear sounding far from us the echoing thunder of our every act. O ye who stand in the Temple in silence, now has the time come to speak. Let us declare why we are met here and what is to be done.

The Magical Philosophy, Book I (Llewellyn, 1974) p.24

Ernest Page and the O.S.V.

When and how did Ernest become involved with the order? From his obituary, we know that his life seemed to undergo a radical change in 1956, when he was in his early 40s. Ernest had been brought up in comfortable circumstances in North London. His sister was a Baptist missionary, his brother a Catholic priest, and Ernest was also religious; as a teenager he was a Baptist and lay preacher, and he converted to the Catholic Church in his 30s.

And then in 1956 he suddenly walked out of church during Mass [4]. At the same time he left his job and lodgings and took to the streets, living rough for the rest of his life. This break from conventional life was accompanied (and perhaps caused by) his growing devotion to Astrology. He never, however, abandoned his faith, and his brother said of him, ‘I preach the gospel – but Ernest practises it.’

This crisis in his life coincided with the crisis in Aurum Solis, and three years later Ernest became the Warden of O.S.V. Was this coincidence? When did Ernest become involved with Aurum Solis, and how? Vivian Godfrey, writing about Ernest in The Magical Philosophy, suggests that Ernest brought into the O.S.V. new members with Martinist, Druid and Theosophical backgrounds. This might imply that Ernest had developed a wide circle of acquaintances in esoteric London, and so perhaps he came across Aurum Solis through this circle.

epage

Ernest Page (centre) with two of the Soho Cabbalists in a film about
Soho Café life made in 1959 – the year he became Warden of the O.S.V.

Vivian Godfrey, Ernest and the O.S.V.

When and how did Vivian become involved with the O.S.V. and Aurum Solis? From the biographical information given on The House of Adocentyn website [5] we know that Vivian was abroad in Europe and the Middle East from the end of the War until 1955. Did she become involved in the O.S.V. later on, through Ernest? We know that she knew him at least from the early 1960s. In an article she wrote about the foundation of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) [6], she talks about an evening where Ernest cast her horoscope:

“In the early sixties I was living and working in central London. I was something of a solitary, but those were great days, great nights rather, of the coffee bars: and often after an evening meal, I would go and spend hours in a few chosen spots in Soho where people from all walks of life sought mild adventure of new outlooks and good talk.

In those days a particular coffee bar, the As You Like It in Monmouth Street, was the favourite haunt of a very notable astrologer, Ernest Page. Ernest was a remarkable man in many ways, and in astrology he was deeply skilled. I still have the natal chart which he drew for me on the occasion I shall tell of, with its annotations in his beautiful meticulous handwriting. But it is not of Ernest that I have to tell here, but of the occasion.”

She goes on to explain that after her business with Ernest was completed that night, she was approached by a pair of druids, Robert MacGregor Reid, the head of the Druid Order (Universal Bond) and his colleague Philip Ross Nichols (who was to go on to found OBOD when MacGregor Reid died in 1964).

From the way she writes, it seems likely that she hadn’t known Ernest for a long time.

Leon Barcynski, Ernest and the O.S.V.

According to the Magical Philosophy, Leon was only 16 when he begun studying with Ernest Page, probably in 1965, the year before Ernest died. He then took over as warden when Ernest died, at barely 18 years old. It seems unlikely that he managed alone, and perhaps by then Vivian was also involved with the O.S.V. Leon and Vivian were married a few years later in 1970.

Michael Bernard Foy and the Aurum Solis

Little is known about Michael Bernard Foy, Grand Master of the Aurum Solis from 1952 to 1975. A correspondent at the House of Adocentyn says that he lived in the US but travelled to the UK to receive his apostolic consecration from Mar Hedley (Hedley Coward Bartlett) on 23 Aug 1951.

Any more information would be most welcome!


Notes:

[1] The Magical Philosophy, Book I, Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips (Llewelyn Publications, 1974). Appendix D contains a history or the order.

[2] Magical Philosophy Book 1 (Llewellyn 1974) p.160.

[3] History page of the Aurum Solis Website:  https://www.aurumsolis.org/tradition

[4] Ernest Page’s obituary: https://esoterichistory.wordpress.com/2018/01/26/ernest-page-obituary/

[5] History page from the House of Adocentyn website: http://adocentyn.net/history/chronology/

[6] Article by Vivian Godfrey on the Order Of Bards, Ovates and Druids Website:   https://druidry.org/druid-musings

About singinghead

druid, mathematician, blogger, gardener...
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2 Responses to Ernest Page and the Order of the Sacred Word

  1. Pingback: Steps of the Foundation II: Calyx – Eightfold

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