I am not usually prone to envy. I did however, get a taste of that emotion when contemplating the subject matter of this book – Alan Richardson’s youthful correspondence with magical great, W.G. Gray. The lucky, lucky bastard.
The book is simple: a reproduction of many of Gray’s replies to Richardson’s magical and spiritual queries from 1969 through the mid-1970s. The wisdom, depth, compassion, simplicity and utter grounded spiritual presence moved and amazed me. And I was already highly appreciative of Gray and his place in modern magic.
I was expecting the letters to be more an outpouring of Gray’s personal opinions on topics mixed with material I was already familiar with. Instead the letters were alive and the answers from Gray touched on magical and spiritual topics were so succinct and honest they, at times, shook me. The spiritual and magical ‘currents’ behind the words, typed on an old Remington typewriter, remain present today. God knows how the young Alan Richardson coped with reading them.
For example, straight away in the first letter the statement of a constantly repeated theme:
This will probably sound awfully disappointing to you, but no matter where you go, who you meet, what sort of situations you get into, you will always be thrown back on yourself in the end, so – you might as well start there in the first place and save an awful lot of time, worry, expense, and what have you’.
Simple. No inclination towards magical or spiritual jargon, yet the heart of magic. And within a month Gray, in a few lines, presents more sense on magical ‘contacts’ than that found in many groups and books:
By the way, don’t attempt to ‘hear words’, ‘just get it by contact”. The contact will sort itself out into English via your mind in its own time. In fact it is silly to expect English or any other human language on that level, for no one speaks like that there. Once you have build [sic] up your symbolic translating machine via the “Letters”, and so forth, the sense will “come English” all right.”
Brilliant. And likely more than a 17 year old could understand at all. In fact, the letters throughout the book provide a great amount of real, practical and thought out information on magical contacts and spiritual entities, proven over the years of Gray’s life. I’ve not read better aside from Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight:
It [the contact] will only answer you from the information you have “banked” with yourself, but the way the information comes out and the new knowledge you gain from this should have come from [the contact].
Put in childish terms (which are often clearest) the HGA [Holy Guardian Angel] is something (or someone) you and God invent between you as a communicating agency.
The same clarity of thought and obvious experience is present in Gray’s comments on many topics and questions, as relevant and as crucial today as then. In fact, many of the topics covered in the correspondence, even the same questions, are now being asked by newcomers on Facebook groups. The answers they receive (when they do) have to be filtered from masses of garbage and still pale against the wisdom Gray imparted to Richardson. This includes subjects such as: why do so many adepts prance about like dickheads; the role and place of sexuality in magic; the tension between tradition and innovation; and the pros and cons of joining magical groups.
Gray, typically, is very direct and blunt in his answers. Witness this reply to Richardson’s melancholic account of the ending of his relationship:
In this life you will not only have to learn how to be “alone” in your Self, but how to succeed spiritually with this process, so that you can become an Individual Entity in your own right … You are not looking for a mate really. You are looking for missing parts of your Self which you know “deep down” must be evolved.
and … something even more relevant to today with self and internet publishing:
Another question to ask yourself. Just how many what I call real occult books have been published in the last few years? The “occult explosion” is a myth invented by publishers to launch rubbish on the market.
Gray of course published many books, all of which were ‘real’ occult books, as is the one under review. Despite sharing (or whinging!) about how little money and reward publishing brought in (‘so much Malkuth for so little Kether’), he never succumbed to temptation to join the ‘occult explosion’:
Christ, I could write crap as well as anyone, inventing phoney “spells”, “masturbation by moonlight”, and all the bloody stupid irresponsible rubbish that hits the sales counter. BUT could I live with myself afterwards even if surrounded by rising royalties? No.
Despite these and other comments, I did, as Richardson suggested in his foreword, find myself surprised. Underneath these letters is one overriding quality: love. Gray loved magic, loved sharing his information and loved that the work may continue. This set of letters does this wonderfully. It has deep treasures and is actually much more relevant to the internet generation of modern young magicians than a single young man from the North of England.
Forget magical forums, forget searching for relevance on Facebook posts – this slim volume will enrich newcomers and experienced alike. A must for anyone wanting to apply magical principles to their life. Highly recommended.
Letters of Light – the magical letters of William G. Gray to Alan Richardson. Alan Richardson (editor). Skylight Press, 2015.