Sunday, 21 June 2015

Swinburne '77 meets O'Murnaghan '15

London. The year is 1977 and the Sex Pistols, Damned and The Clash are taking on the disco, pop and rock establishment. Bowie is across The English Channel in Berlin recording Heroes with Brian Eno.

One person seems fairly much oblivious to the noise in the bedsits and in clubs. Zachary Cox is frustrated. His love of good poetry has taken him on a quest for more published works from Swinburne yet he becomes increasingly dismayed at what he finds some 70 years after the poet's death.

His thinking at the time is summarised in his own words within the foreward of “Swinburne 77,” a little book he subsequently publishes that year:-

“It is a sobering fact that ….there is no complete edition of the work of Algernon Charles Swinburne in print nor even an edition of any one of his complete volumes of verse. All that can be found are 'selections' – selections made by lesser and later poets, who appear to be determined to select only those works which match up to the emasculated fashions of 20th-century poetry at its most bloodless.”

I'm fairly sure Old Man Crowley, the self-proclaimed Beast, would have been disgusted too given the enormous influence Swinburne had on his own work. It is clear that Cox figures people should be able to readily access the beautiful output of a man who was one of England's greatest poets. Not content to wait for others to act, Cox decides to do something about about it and privately publishes “Swinburne 77” under the imprint of The Neopantheist Society. The edition is a collection of some of the most sublime poetry and visionary lyricism from 19th Century England. The book was followed with a double cassette of Cox reading the poems contained in the collection.

Time passes....a few whiskers short of 40 years.

The Big Hills. The year is 2015. Things have thankfully shifted on the Swinburne front. The internet and book publishers are now awash with Swinburne's work. We can get a selection of his complete works and volumes delivered within 24 hours of ordering. Just as well, as my copy of Swinburne 77 has fallen to pieces! Everytime I read Swinburne now I can't help but think of Zachary Cox and I send him a little inner “thank you for keeping a glint in the kindling. The fire has returned.”

However, I find myself extrapolating and morphing some of Zach's frustration from '77 into '15, but this time with Art O'Murnaghan as opposed to Swinburne. I'm annoyed that almost 60 years after the death of O'Murnaghan I can get hold of next to nothing of his creative output out there in the market place. There is a sense of deja vu with '77. No complete or comprehensive works. Little bits and pieces on the internet, poorly photographed images of some of his artistic masterpieces, a chapter of a book here, contributions and paragraphs there and articles gathering dust in a library in Dublin or in old Theosophical Society libraries spread across the globe.

Somewhat shamefully, there really isn't much out there. Come on Ireland! What of the Celtic Revival? Did it die? Come on those of you inspired by Dion Fortune's magical and visionary writings! Let's have some research, insights and a compendium.

I've written three previous scantily detailed blogs summarising my own researches into Art. The first covered a viewpoint of Art as Dion Fortune's “Hibernian Adept”. The second touched upon more of his creative genius, in particular in relation to Irish Theatre. Finally, the third presented one of his retellings of an old Irish myth or particular interest. Throughout the process I was delighted to be contacted by some of Art's family with a degree of interest and encouragement. That said, impatience is setting in.

Surely someone out there, a family member, a scholar looking for a PhD thesis, a wealthy  chronicler with plenty of time and resource on their hands feels a calling to go out there, capture and share the humanity and creative greatness of the man in more depth and detail for perpetuity? Plays, music, stories, writing and artwork. Anecdotes and recollections. Yes?

So, here's a gauntlet thrown down on this day, the Summer Solstice of 2015. To that person out there - now is the time to do it!

I suspect this is the last blog I will write about Art O'Murnaghan, at least until more material is unearthed. Hopefully the few embers I've wafted will spark a flame somewhere. As a parting farewell I will leave you with one last little gem from the man.

In October 1939 W.B Yeats and Lady Dorothy Wellesley produced some low circulation arts magazines called “A Broadside”. In issue 10, Art supplied two tunes for pieces of poetry contained within. The first was for Willie Yeats poem, “The Pilgrim.” The second was a tune for F Higgins's “Sleep Song”. As I wrap up this blog and my adventures with Art O'Murnaghan, I'd ask you to try out Art's tune with the Yeat's poem. It may take you a few attempts but you should be able to sing the poem to the tune. As Mike Scott showed recently with The Waterboys' stunning “An Appointment with Mr Yeats”, some poems are even better appreciated when expressed as songs. They can be lifted to a whole different level of experience. Art understood that and has left us some beautiful examples. Enjoy this one.

“Is fol de rol de rolly O!”

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Travelling further?


“Sitting in your chair you can travel farther than ever Columbus travelled and to lordlier worlds than his eyes had rested on. Are you not tired of surfaces? Come with me and we will bathe in the Fountains of Youth.”

- Candle of Vision by A.E.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Dion Fortune on "The Green Ray"

“It has been sometimes said that the Green Ray is without wisdom – that is complete nonsense. It is not the keynote of it, but there is a great wisdom aspect which develops from the Green Ray, and its wisdom in this case is the superlative knowledge of the subtleties and secrets of what is called Nature. Of the very deep inward knowledge of fish and bird and beast, and of their ways and their needs, and above all of a remarkable communication with their Group Souls.”

Excerpt from Orpheus, by Margaret Lumley Brown,
published in Pythoness by Gareth Knight

Eighty-two years ago, on the evening of the 14th of March, Dion Fortune gave a public talk on the oft misunderstood concept of the Green Ray. A member of the audience, also then a member of the Fraternity of the Inner Light, took notes on the main points showcased during the lecture. This post presents a summary of that presentation and provides a good insight into Dion Fortune’s then thinking about the subject.

While our general understanding of some aspects of her talk covered that evening, particularly the elements of psychology, has developed and moved on, much of what she said remains fresh and pertinent for today’s audience.


“I am going to speak to you tonight on the subject of the Green Ray, but before doing so I will explain what that means.

As you know, there are three aspects of consciousness - sub-consciousness, consciousness, and super-consciousness. Sub-consciousness concerns the past, consciousness the present, and super-consciousness the future. In other words, everything belonging to sub-consciousness was developed during the epoch of evolution that has passed away, and its mode of function is generally forgotten by the civilised individual whose mind is adapted to the mode of consciousness of the present day.

Super-consciousness is the level on which realisation of the Divine is achieved. Esoteric work is concerned with these three levels; mysticism with super-consciousness, occultism with consciousness and the Green Ray with sub-consciousness. Mysticism is consequently beyond the achievement of the average human being and he has lost touch with the Green Ray, but through the technique of occultism these two aspects can be brought within the focus of the lens of consciousness.

When dealing with the Green Ray we recover certain methods of mentation belonging to the past, and it is the blending of these with super-consciousness that is the aim of the initiate, for if the pendulum swings too far in either direction equilibrium will be lost. If super-consciousness alone is developed we lose touch with Mother Earth, and if the primitive aspect is concentrated upon, we tend to “fall into sin.” As the Buddha truly said – “The Middle Way is the Path.” That is the lesson we have to learn and which we stress to our students.

The Victorian epoch was characterised by the repression of the primitive aspect which had got out of hand during the time of Charles II and the Georges; consequently there was a swing of the pendulum towards idealism and restraint of the primitive nature. Then came the Great War, and the whole of the civilised epoch broke off short.

Occultists knew this would happen because of the movement of the Sun through the Zodiac which brings about changes of cosmic phases; it is the coming in of the Green Ray phase of the Aquarian Age which is taking place at the present time. The spiritual concept of the Victorian age is giving place to the forces belonging to the elemental, instinctive aspect of our natures.

We can see this change in the growing disturbances in the peoples of various nations - in the tendency to appoint dictators - in the outcry for strong leadership - in the tightening up of the reins of authority and in the limitation of democracy. We can note the whole change of tone that is coming about and we can see the influences of the old Norse Gods coming into play. In Germany there has been a great deal of the recrudescence of paganism and a curious revival of the old traditional worship of Thor, Freyja and Odin.

In our own country we have an entirely new outlook in psychology, very different from that of the pre-war type, which might be described in the words of the old Scottish farmer after reading through the dictionary “Very interesting, but very disconnected.”

The old psychology was accurate as far as it went, but had neither system nor coherence. When Freud came in he showed the underlying factor of the sub-conscious mind and its connection with consciousness. This contribution was a very big one, but I think the stress laid on sex was unbalanced. What he says may be true of the pathological folk in Eastern Europe, but it does not apply to the same extent to the average Anglo-Saxon. With this opening up of the sub-conscious the way was paved for a change in the attitude of life and the attention of humanity turned to sub-conscious things. Freud, Adler and Jung approached the matter simultaneously but from different angles. Their systems were not branches of the same tree, but other saplings of the same forest.

Another aspect of the Green Ray phase is to be seen in music. Jazz is the music of the sub-conscious. It works upon it, bringing to the surface the primitive emotions of those who hear it in a way classical music does not do.

In art also we see the Green Ray phase coming in. The Impressionist picture cannot be interpreted by the intellect but only in the light of our reaction to it. To my mind what the Impressionist artist is trying to do is to interpret psychic vision - to draw the etheric aspect of a thing – the lines of force surrounding it - the life side of it rather than the thing itself. He is trying to represent the archetypal idea behind the object, to open up the sub-conscious level on a higher arc.

Thus, in various ways we see the Green Ray coming into operation and ethics and ideals of the Victorian age changing into the realisation of the Neo-Georgian.

The Green Ray mode of mentation is largely concerned with picture consciousness and not with words, and it is interesting to note the proportion of these different types in different temperaments. Those who are unable to think in picture consciousness and employ words only are at a disadvantage in practical occultism.

In super-modern literature we see the attempt to do sub-conscious thinking in terms of words. It is not satisfactory and the Impressionist poem must be psycho-analysed to be understood. The writer is trying to use a medium which is not designed for such use; that any result has been obtained is an achievement, and reminds one of Dr Johnson's words concerning a dog walking on its hind legs - "It is not done well, but one marvels that it is done at all."

Let us now consider the psychological aspect of the Green Ray. With Freud came the breaking up of conventional morality, and there soon followed the breaking of actual morality. One thing is certain, we cannot cohere as a civilised community without repressions and inhibitions. Repression, however, is not the same thing as dissociation. Repression is a holding in check. Dissociation is a splitting of a thing from consciousness, making it a foreign body and a source of sepsis and trouble. The whole trend of present day consciousness is to break away from restraint – to remove the censor that Freud speaks of, which keeps back what we do not wish to think about. The censor is really an exercise in attention.

Dissociation means we are deluding ourselves about something. A true idea is one which represents accurately the object it is supposed to represent as far as we are capable of accurate knowledge of it. Dissociation is a twisting of an idea till it appears as something quite different. It is not completely lost by this distortion, but it is so changed as to become unrecognisable.

In the average man the powers of the sub-conscious mind have remained infantile, and if awakened in this state will produce a dual personality such as we get in the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But the Green Ray Initiate uses the developed and controlled nature of Mr Hyde to work with, for he roust be able to extend consciousness both ways - to the spiritual super-consciousness and to the elemental sub-consciousness in order to obtain the full range of human capability.

The archetypal ideas are in the super-conscious mind, and these are our anchor within the veil - the ideas which direct our course; but the driving force to carry them out is provided by the sub-consciousness level of the mind.

It is on this level that we get the three great instincts. First, the Self-preservation instinct which gives us the wish to live - the desire for self-expression - the fighting instinct. It gives the “joy of battle”, as long as we are on the winning side. Collective ownership tries to do away with this instinct. The subjective aspect of an instinct is an emotion.

Thus, action gives a feeling of pleasure; thwarting, one of pain, and in the imagining of a possible thwarting we feel fear, for fear is a function of the imagination. The joy of battle is a healthy thing, and you will seldom find that a person who “enjoys a good row” is of a malicious nature. It is a pagan virtue and arguably one that is usually found in the Celt more than in the Anglo- Saxon.

The Reproductive instinct is the second of the great instincts. In normal function it should be a clean drive of force, its higher aspects expressing themselves right up the planes, for like other instincts it has its intellectual aspect. Unless, however, this force is undistorted on its lowest level, it is useless to raise an aesthetic super-structure upon it.

The Herd Instinct is the latest in development. It deals with social life; its emotional aspect concerns our feeling in relation to those with whom we come in contact. Approval from them gives us pleasure, while disapproval gives us pain.

All herd creatures, such as the dog, the horse, etc. possess this instinct. They can be trained and trusted and can feel approval or disapproval, this is not the case, however, with the cat which is not a herd animal, or with the eagle. They go their own way regardless of the feelings of others.

All ethics and codes have their roots in the herd instinct. They are not concerned with our relationship to God but with our relationship to our fellow men. Psychology does not explain this very well, but the science of esoteric doctrine gives us the key in the teaching concerning the group mind and group-soul of the race and our relationship with them through the emotional aspect of the herd instinct.

We can see, then, that the Self-preservation instinct deals with the lines of force of the four elements which all have their part in the make-up of the physical body, and when we speak of the elemental contacts it is this aspect that is referred to.

It is the Reproductive instinct that gives rise to polarity, not only on the physical plane, but through action and reaction on any level, for polarity can function on any plane, regardless of sex, and not only between individuals but between a leader and a group for example, or between a teacher and pupils.

The phallic side of this instinct is important in the understanding of primitive religions, phallicism and the elements having the keys to the Green Ray. Unless we hold these keys the highest aspects of occultism are a sealed book to us, for super-consciousness alone will not give the full range. This is only to be found in the equilibrium of the highest and lowest levels of consciousness, and should manifest in perfect co-ordination in daily life. It is from the elemental side of things we draw endurance and stability. By connecting up with these currents of force we cease to be units and become part of a larger whole, and thereby are enabled to be made channels for transmission of that force. That is the fruit of the proper elemental contacts.

The occultist uses ceremonial ritual to contact these forces because by this means it is easier to control them. If sub-conscious contact is opened up it must not be left opened, but must be closed again and normal consciousness restored. Different rites are used to open up different elemental aspects, and sometime I hope to show you some forms of these ceremonies.

What I have told you tonight is the essence of the whole principle of the Green Ray contacts, and it is because of these things that Glastonbury is of such supreme importance, for it is an elemental centre where these forces may be contacted in a very balanced and pure form.”


There is certainly plenty to ponder over from these faithfully made notes of Dion Fortune’s lecture. I hope you manage to mine some gold from it.

It seems fitting to finish off tonight’s post with a photograph of Orpheus, who has often been described as “the Manu of the Celtic Race and Lord of the Green Ray”. A term favoured by Theosophists and those working in the Inner Light Tradition, a Manu can be seen as a great builder on the inner planes of a particular and distinct cultural grouping and mind set. Essentially Orpheus is an Archetypal Being who initiates and defines the characteristics we see now within much of the Celtic Group-soul. 

This particular photograph was taken a few years ago at Prinknash Abbey and is of a beautiful copy of the original Orpheus mosaic found in Woodchester Roman Villa, Gloucestershire. Woodchester, a rather haunted treasure in the Stroud Valleys, is well worth a visit. Perhaps more about the strange Woodchester will follow in a later blog post!