My latest book, CHRIST & QABALAH, that appears appropriately approaching Advent, stretches the limits of both magic and mysticism. It comes as a consequence of a forty year run in with a most remarkable man and priest the Reverend Canon Anthony Duncan – from our meeting at Tewkesbury Abbey back in 1964 to his passing on in 2003. Something of this story is recorded in a chapter of my autobiography I CALLED IT MAGIC as well as one or two letters quoted in YOURS VERY TRULY, GARETH KNIGHT. However, this is “the full Monty”, the record of a friendly knock down drag out contest between an occultist and a churchman, in which both learned a great deal about each other and themselves and also what they stood for. Much testing of the limits, whether as mystic or magician.
A first consequences of this appeared in a couple of books we produced early on in the contest. On my part EXPERIENCE OF THE INNER WORLDS upon which I trained all subsequent students in what is now the Avalon Group, and on his part by THE CHRIST, PSYCHOTHERAPY AND MAGIC, his first reaction to being introduced to the Qabalah, which was greeted in the national press with the comment “Now at least one clergyman has got the point and in this book urges his fellow Christians not to dismiss occultism either as a cranky fad or as a black art....a wholly fascinating book which should be required reading for all church people.”
And after a revelatory weekend on the holy island of Iona that opened up Tony Duncan’s psychic and mystical faculties, it was closely followed by THE LORD OF THE DANCE – an “ in your face” revelation of contemporary mysticism that rocked me on my heels – and then THE SWORD IN THE SUN – a highly personal conversation with a Holy Guardian Angel, chatting about reincarnation, fairy contacts and other sundry matters that were too hot to publish until Coleston Brown, a lively transatlantic member of my group, produced an edition twenty years later with his Sun Chalice press in California – alas now defunct.
Nothing loth, however, ever a man of integrity, Anthony Duncan also pushed his ideas in theological journals and elsewhere, as for example in “New Fire” – “There appears to be, in the rising generation, a considerable increase in what we may describe as ‘psychical awareness’. In addition, there is a very real and growing desire for God. There is, however, a massive impatience with institutionalism, and a real questioning as to the relevance of the institutional Church to things of the spirit at all. Our public preoccupation with ‘relevance’ has not helped us, but far worse has been the long tradition of ignorance in matters of an interior nature, our mistrust of mysticism and our rejection without very much attempt at comprehension of the ‘psychic’...The great Christian heritage of mysticism and contemplation is going by default through sheer ignorance of it.”
Following through from all this, as we discovered, was the need to differentiate between the mystical and the magical. Much of magical practice is in terms of the psychic and intuitive, which may not necessarily be an approach to God, but rather to our own interior states, the collective unconscious, or to denizens of the inner planes. We often tend to think of the Tree of Life in two dimensional terms and heaving ourselves up the grades until, eventually, as Ipsissimi (should we live so long!), we can be on nodding terms with God. Actually it is a lot easier than that if we remember the doctrine of the Four Worlds of the Qabalists. That is to say in a three dimensional diagram, where the whole Tree is available to us as Material World, Formative World, Creative World, and Spiritual World.
We all know all about the Material World, we are well mired within it, and we can as occultists operate within the Formative and Creative worlds by elemental or angelic contacts. The Spiritual world is the one where God Imminent is to be found and quite accessible too. As the early Qabalist Isaac Luriah taught, we and the whole creation are, literally, IN God. And not for nothing is the present book sub-titled THE MIND IN THE HEART, which is a much superior organ of perception than is generally realised.
And as Tony Duncan, who put much of his perceptions into verse, expressed it in “Balaam’s Dog”:
The Lord, who made an ass articulate in Holy Writ has, in these latter days inspired my dog who, noticing my state observed: “You seek our Lord in many ways; you meditate for hours, breathe Yoga breath, contort yourself in postures and awake your inner depths to nightmare and near-death, perform the Dhikr, and contemplate, and make an inner Tantric sound, and go to bed exhausted and tormented in the dark. You make of Love such heavy work!” she said. “With all these arrows, do you hit the mark? Our Lord is here,” she said. “Can you not see? Our Lord is Love, and loving, Just like me!”
Not that his message is all simple evangelism. It extends to the friendship of faery for example. And note the tone of respect.
Shall I return to fairyland who saw them dancing there? Shall I return and part the veil that hangs across thin air? Shall I intrude upon their peace who once did welcome me? Or might our blessed friendship cease should I, intruding, see? True magic is a given thing, its mysteries are not sought; its unexpected light and love not stolen are, nor bought. An open heart, a true respect for brethren yet unseen, shall yield what no man can expect, who comes where Love has been.
Whilst his insights into high mystical states can be quite mind blowing.
How many heavens does this Earth contain? What subtleties of wavelength and what bounds are set? What frequencies are tuned, what lives are lived upon another plane? For I have felt them passing by, intent upon their business, and have seen, have glimpsed their presence, known them near, befriended in the corner of an eye. All life is one. We rise or fall, each persons of one creature: Man. Our mystery proceeds to plan, one Inner Space contains us all.
That Inner Space being the Mind of God, which includes awareness of the wider universe which that Divine Mind created.
Inhabitants of other spheres than this draw near the threshold of my conscious mind. As they are sent, perhaps? Or I am bidden? Some come to see the priest. Others collide, and we regard in mutual puzzlement and gently move our worlds once more apart. I must be vigilant. Four-square I must abide; discernment and compassion in my heart.
I found evidence of this when going through some of his old papers. They included a manuscript called TO THINK WITHOUT FEAR that takes “outer space” into account. In this extraordinary work, shortly to be published by Skylight Press, he includes his own experiences, and frankly examines the experience of psychic communication with "extra-terrestrial" contacts and the theological and other implications.
From this, some might consider him to be as nutty as a fruitcake. Let me assure them that he certainly was not. Anthony Duncan was the most down to earth, commonsensical and practical of men, as some of his descriptions of working as a parish priest, movingly (and sometimes amusingly) reveal – which include taking the blessed sacrament through the streets to the dying, comforting the sick, injured or demented in hospital wards, organising a vicarage garden party, and devising a Bible Quiz for the Women’s Fellowship Beetle-Drive! While as part of his lesser known vocation as a Diocesan Exorcist, producing on his retirement a guide book dealing with the Psychic Disturbance of Places “a booklet I wrote for my successors as ‘spooks’ ministry men. It has the distinction of having passed muster with the Chairman of the Church of England Doctrine Commission. Can one fly higher?” Not that he would ever talk much about this kind of work, although aspects of it feature in some of his poems, and in his novel FAVERSHAM’S DREAM and also in UNFINISHED BUSINESS, which has yet to come.
However, for the moment there is more than enough to stimulate, educate and ponder in our mutual effort CHRIST & QABALAH – Skylight Press. And a jolly good Christmas present too!