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Chapter XIV


IT is a matter of general knowledge among occultists that it is not a pleasant thing to fall foul of an occult fraternity of which one has been made a member by means of a ceremonial initiation and to which one is bound by oaths. As we have already seen, the malignant mind of a trained occultist is a nasty weapon; how much more so the group-mind formed out of a number of trained minds, especially if concentrated by means of ritual?

But in addition to the individual mental force of the members of a fraternity, and in addition to the collective force of its group-mind, there is another factor to be reckoned with when a genuine occult organisation is concerned in operations of either protection or destruction. Every occult organisation depends for Its power to initiate upon what are called its "contacts," that is to say, upon one or more of its leaders being psychically in touch with certain forces. If, in addition to this, the organisation has a long line of tradition behind it, a very potent collection of thought-forms will be built up in its atmosphere. Every initiation ceremony contains in some form or other the Oath of the Mysteries, which binds the candidate neither to reveal the secrets of the Mysteries nor to abuse the knowledge they bestow. This oath always contains a Penalty Clause and an Invocation wherein the candidate submits himself to a penalty in the event of a breach of faith, and calls upon some Being to exact the penalty. Some of these oaths are most formidable affairs, and they are administered with every circumstance of solemnity that stage management can devise. The way in which the occult fraternities have succeeded in preserving their secrets shows how seldom these oaths are broken.

In the event of a dispute with an occult fraternity, the force invoked in this oath may come into action automatically. If the recalcitrant brother is in the spirit of the tradition and it is his chiefs who are at fault, the power invoked in the oath will be a potent protective influence with which the chiefs themselves will collide. If, on the other hand, he breaks faith with the Mysteries, this avenging punitive current will come into action although his defection may pass undiscovered. I was informed by an eye-witness of an incident which took place at an initiation, in which the candidate, a man to all appearances normal in every way, after taking the oath in the usual manner, suddenly screamed most terribly, startling everyone, and was ill for some weeks as if from a severe nervous shock, and never had anything more to do with occultism. No explanation of the incident was ever forthcoming. I was present myself upon one occasion when a batch of three candidates was being "done," and it was suddenly noticed in the course of the ceremony that the number of the candidates had become reduced to two. Enquiry elicited the fact that the third had taken fright and fled.

What happened in these two cases, I do not know; whether there had been a breach of good faith, or whether one was intended, no one can say; but something put the fear of the Lord into these two individuals pretty effectually. That no such shock is inherent in the ceremony is proved by the fact that these are the only two cases in my experience, and I have seen a very large number of ceremonies. Person ally, when I took my own initiation I felt as if I had come into harbour after a stormy voyage.

Another man who was intimately known to me as an advanced occultist was turned out of the Order to which he belonged, why, I do not know, but from what I saw of him I should imagine there were plenty of reasons. In defiance of his initiation oath he began to work an independent lodge. He was warned to desist, and did so, dismantling his temple. But he immediately began to get together another temple in a carefully concealed place; and this time he was more ambitious, for he made ready to attempt the Greater Mysteries. He was an exceedingly clever craftsman and made all the equipment of the temple with his own hands so that no one should know what was afoot. Concealed behind Nottingham lace curtains in a mean street in West London was a beautiful little temple of the Greater Mysteries. He completed this work after some months of arduous toil, no one knowing of it save those in his immediate confidence. But before commencing the actual ritual work he went away for a short holiday at the seaside, and there he was seized with a heart attack while sitting on the beach and died in four hours. The Order secrets were not betrayed.

Another man who had had a dispute with the same famous Order, printed and published their secrets as an act of revenge. He was a man of good social position, considerable wealth and brilliant literary abilities, already making a name for himself as a writer. From that moment be began to go downhill, and came to poverty and disgrace. The curse of Ahasuerus seemed to be upon him, and he was hounded from country to country, finding no abiding place. No publisher will handle his books, no paper will review them.

Let me finally tell of my own experiences in an astral skirmish. I wrote a series of articles on the abuses prevalent in occult fraternities, and these were published in the Occult Review. My writing is largely inspirational, a great deal "coming through" of which I have no previous knowledge, and in this particular case I evidently shot a great deal better than I knew, and got myself into serious trouble. My first intimation of it was a sense of uneasiness and restlessness. Next came a feeling as if the barriers between the Seen and the Unseen were full of rifts and I kept on getting glimpses of the Astral mingling with my waking consciousness. This, for me, is unaccustomed, for I am not naturally psychic, and in the technique in which I was trained we are taught to keep the different levels of consciousness strictly separate and to use a specific method for opening and closing the gates. Consequently one seldom gets spontaneous psychism. One's vision resembles the use of a microscope in which one examines prepared material.

The general sense of vague uneasiness gradually matured into a definite sense of menace and antagonism, and presently I began to see demon faces in flashes, resembling those picture-images which psychologists call by the unpleasing name of hypnogogics, flashes of dream which appear upon the threshold of sleep. I was quite unsuspicious of any particular individual, though I realised that my articles had probably stirred somebody up pretty thoroughly; what was my surprise, then, to receive from a person whom I looked upon as a friend and for whom I had the greatest respect, a letter which left me in no doubt whatever as to the source of the attack and what I might expect if any more articles were published. I can honestly say that until I received this letter I had not the slightest suspicion that this person was implicated in the scandals I was attacking.

I was in a somewhat difficult position; I had fired off a charge of shrapnel on general principles, and had apparently "bagged" a number of my friends and associates and fluttered the dove-cote generally. My position was rather complicated by the fact that I did not know nearly as much as they apparently suspected me of doing; I had, of course, known that these abuses existed sporadically about the occult field, as everybody in the movement knows; but to know in this vague way is one thing, and to put one's finger on specific cases is another. I had evidently blundered into something much more considerable than I had bargained for. I felt like the small boy who, fishing for minnows, has hooked a pike. I had to decide whether I would try and get my articles back from the Occult Review, or whether I would let them run their natural course and take the con sequences. I had had a very strong impulse to write those articles, and now I began to see why I had had it. I shall have something to say in another chapter concerning the Watchers, that curious section of the Occult Hierarchy which is concerned with the welfare of nations. A certain section of their work is apparently concerned with the policing of the Astral Plane. Very little is actually known about them. One comes across their work sporadically and pieces the bits together. I have crossed their trail on several occasions, as I will tell later. Whenever black magic is afoot, they set to work to put a spoke in its wheels. Be that as it may, I came to the conclusion that, in view of what had now transpired, the impulse I had had to take in hand this piece of work might have emanated from the Watchers. At any rate, the work obviously needed doing. Someone had to tackle these plague spots if they were to be cleared up, so I determined to stick to my guns and see the matter through, and so left the articles in question to run their course.

Very soon some curious things began to happen. We became most desperately afflicted with black cats. They were not hallucinatory cats, for our neighbours shared in the affliction, and we exchanged commiserations with the care taker next door who was engaged in pushing bunches of black cats off doorstep and window-sill with a broom, and declared he had never in his life seen so many, or such dreadful specimens. The whole house was filled with the horrible stench of the brutes. Two members of our community at that time went out to business every day, and at their offices, in different parts of London, they found the same penetrating reek of the tom-cat.

At first we attributed this persecution to natural causes, and concluded that we were near neighbours to some fascinating feline female, but incidents succeeded each other which made us feel that things were not quite in the ordinary course of nature. We were getting near to the Vernal Equinox, which is always a difficult time for occultists; there was a sense of strain and tension in the atmosphere, and we were all feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Coming upstairs after breakfast one morning, I suddenly saw, coming down the stairs towards me, a gigantic tabby cat, twice the size of a tiger. It appeared absolutely solid and tangible. I stared at it petrified for a second, and then it vanished. I instantly realised that it was a simulacrum, or thought- form that was being projected by someone with occult powers. Not that the realisation was any too comforting, but it was better than an actual tiger. Feeling decidedly uncomfortable, I asked one of my household to join me, and as we sat in my room meditating we heard the cry of a cat from without. It was answered by another, and another, We looked out of the window, and the street as far as we could see was dotted with black cats and they were wailing and howling in broad daylight as they do on the roofs at night.

I rose up, gathered together my paraphernalia, and did an exorcism then and there. At the end we looked out of the window again. There was not a cat in sight, and we never saw them again. The visitation was at an end. Only our normal population of local mousers remained to us.

The Vernal Equinox was now upon us. I must explain that this is the most important season of the year for occultists. Great power-tides are flowing on the Inner Planes, and these are very difficult to handle. If there is going to be astral trouble, it usually blows up for storm at this season. There are also certain meetings which take place on the Astral Plane, and many occultists attend them out of the body. In order to do this, one has to throw one self into a trance and then the mind is free to travel. It is usual to get someone who understands these methods of work to watch beside the body while it is vacated to see that it comes to no harm.

In the ordinary way, when an occult attack is afoot, one clings to waking consciousness at all costs, sleeping by day and keeping awake and meditating while the sun is below the horizon. As ill-luck would have it, however, I was obliged to make one of these astral journeys at this season. My attacker knew this as well as I did. I therefore made my preparations with all the precautions I could think of; gathered together a carefully chosen group to form the watching circle, and sealed up the place of operation with the usual ceremonial. I had not much faith in this operation under the circumstances, for my attacker was of much higher grade than I was, and could come through any seals I might set. However, it afforded protection against minor unpleasantness.

The method of making these astral journeys is highly technical, and I cannot enter upon it here. In the language of psychology, it is auto-hypnosis by means of a symbol. The symbol acts as a door to the Unseen. According to the symbol chosen will be the section of the Unseen to which access is obtained. The trained initiate, therefore, does not wander on the astral like an uneasy ghost, but comes and goes by well-known corridors.

My enemy's task was therefore not a difficult one; for she knew about the time I must make this journey and the symbol I must use in order to get out of the body. I was therefore prepared for opposition, though I did not know what form it would take.

These astral journeys are really lucid dreams in which one retains all one's faculties of choice, will-power and judgment. Mine always begin with a curtain of the symbolic colour through whose folds I pass. No sooner was I through the curtain on this occasion than I saw my enemy waiting for me, or, if another terminology is preferred, I began to dream about her. She appeared to me in the full robes of her grade, which were very magnificent,and barred my entry, telling me that by virtue of her authority she forbade me to make use of these astral pathways. I replied that I did not admit her right to close the astral paths to me because she was person ally offended, and that I appealed to the Inner Chiefs, to whom both she and I were responsible. Then ensued a battle of wills in which I experienced the sensation of being whirled through the air and falling from a great height and found myself back in my body. But my body was not where I had left it, but in a heap in the far corner of the room, which looked as if it had been bombed. By means of the well- known phenomenon of repercussion the astral struggle had apparently communicated itself to the body, which had somersaulted round the room while an agitated group had rescued the furniture from its path.

I was somewhat shaken by this experience, which had not been a pleasant one. I recognised that I had had the worst of it and had been effectually ejected from the astral paths; but I also realised that if I accepted this defeat my occult career was at an end. Just as a child who has been thrown by his pony must immediately get up and remount if he is ever to ride again, so I knew that at all costs I must make that astral journey if I were to retain my powers. So I told my group to pull themselves together and re-form the circle because we must make another attempt; I invoked the Inner Chiefs, and went out once more. This time there was a short sharp struggle, and I was through. I had the Vision of the Inner Chiefs, and returned. The fight was over. I have never had any trouble since.

But when I took off my clothes in order to go to bed my back felt very sore, and taking a hand-glass I examined it in the mirror, and I found that from neck to waist I was scored with scratches as if I had been clawed by a gigantic cat.

I told this story to some friends of mine, experienced occultists, who at one time had been closely associated with the person which whom I had had this trouble, and they told me that she was well known for these astral attacks, and that a friend of theirs after a quarrel with her had had an exactly similar experience, and she too had been covered with claw-marks. In her case, however, she had been ill for six months and had never touched occultism again.

There is a curious epilogue to this story, which may or may not have any bearing upon it. I have already told the story of the mysterious death that took place on lona. How the body of this unfortunate girl was found lying naked on a cross cut out of the turf. No cause of death could be found, and the verdict was that she died of exposure. But if she were lost, how did she come to lie down to die in this ritual manner, instead of wandering about? Why had she taken off all her clothes before leaving her house, covering herself only with a black cloak? And why did she take with her the large knife with which she cut the cross in the turf? I do not know her later history, for I had lost sight of her during the last two or three years of her life, but at the time I knew her she was associated with the woman I have referred to. The only marks found upon her dead body were scratches.


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