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Gareth KnightThe 1950s
My esoteric training began in earnest in October 1953, when, at the age of 23, after the usual Seeker's quest of scrabbling around reading assorted occult books, I came across two by Dion Fortune, The Esoteric Orders and their Work and The Training and Work of an Initiate. They had an electrifying effect upon me and I determined that wherever this stuff was coming from, that was where I wanted to be. If there were such things as Esoteric Orders, I wanted to join one, and such things as Initiates, I wanted to be one.

On successful completion of an introductory study course and interview I was duly initiated into the Society of the Inner Light on 23rd October 1954 and commenced, by meditation and ritual, my progress through the Lesser Mystery grades until making it into the Greater Mysteries in July 1959. By this time I had arranged my life so as to live within walking distance of the London headquarters. The Society at this time was organised into three Lesser Mystery and two Greater Mystery Degrees, each meeting monthly, with an evening discussion group for all comers once a week.

This gave a lot of opportunity for ritual work and personal study in the library although a great deal of effort also went into the duplicating machine churning out various knowledge papers to members, originated by a team of mediums, headed up by Margaret Lumley Brown, working upon various inner contacts.

 

The 1960s
By 1960 the Society had moved from west to north London and I had taken on the honorary part-time role of librarian. An American publisher, about to re-issue The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, The Esoteric Orders and their Work and Training and Work of an Initiate asked if a member of the Society could write an Introduction to each title. None of the senior members were interested in taking this on so the opportunity passed to me and led on to being invited to write a new book on the Qabalah – A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism – and to edit a new bi-monthly magazine, New Dimensions.

All did not remain plain sailing however as the publisher ran into some financial difficulties, but with the help of a private patron and fellow member of the Society I was able to publish the book and continue the magazine for a time, founding Helios Book Service that combined publishing and mail order book selling. My editorial activities brought me into touch with a number of well known occultists of the time, Israel Regardie, W.E. Butler, W.G. Gray, Gerald Gardner, Pat Crowther and others. I published books by Regardie and Gray as well as myself and with W.E. Butler in 1964 launched a correspondence course – the Helios Course on the Practical Qabalah.

At this time I regretfully resigned from the Society of the Inner Light which had embarked upon a more mystical and philosophical line, eschewing much of the custom and practice of the system in which I had been trained and had come to associate with Dion Fortune. The mystical line I had no quarrel with, and some reforms were no doubt due, but abandoning much of the Hermetic work seemed a bit too much like "throwing out the baby with the bathwater".

 

The 1970s
By 1973 the Helios course had become so popular that it needed to be hived off as a separate entity. It was re-named the Servants of the Light and under Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, whom Ernest Butler had appointed as his principal aid and then Director of Studies, has since achieved new heights as an international school.

At the same time I felt the need to develop a new school after my own aspirations and inner directions, following a long and fruitful interchange with Anthony Duncan, an Anglican clergyman with remarkable clairvoyant powers and an open and enquiring mind. It was on a series of symbolic visions by him (published in The Lord of the Dance) that I based the training of all my personal students, published in 1975 as Experience of the Inner Worlds. I had also learned a great deal through a long if bruising association with the redoubtable old occultist W.G.Gray and a creative interchange with a fellow one-time student of his, R.J.Stewart.

 

The 1980s
In 1979 I was invited to give a weekend of lectures at Hawkwood, a Rudolf Steiner based adult college, which developed into a series that lasted until 1986. In them I endeavoured to combine talks with some of the directed visualisation and ritual work that I had learned in the Society of the Inner Light. This proved immensely powerful and popular and in the end the series had to be brought to an end through its own success – it all became too crowded and difficult to handle. However, it also gave rise to a series of books, covering Arthurian, Qabalistic, Isiac, Tolkien and Tarot material, some translated into various European languages or reissued in America.

In place of the public events I developed a small ritual group base consisting of my more promising students – eventually known as the Gareth Knight Group. Its modus operandi was entirely ritual based, members contributing their own material. This in effect was a reincarnation of the Outer Greater Mystery grade of the old Society of the Inner Light. During this period I also lectured further afield, in New York, Paris and Athens with the occasional practical working thrown in where appropriate.

 

The 1990s
After 25 years of running the GK group I felt in 1998 that the time had come to pass on the torch to senior members of what is now known as the Avalon Group. At much the same time came the culmination of a slow rapprochement with the Society of the Inner Light that began in 1993 when I was invited to edit a volume of Dion Fortune's war letters and contribute to the Inner Light Journal. A new Warden and council of management had taken control of the Society in 1990 and now encouraged me to rejoin and advise on ways to restore some of the old grades system and practices. This I undertook with a will, the first outward result of which was editing a series of books based upon previously unpublished material by Dion Fortune, and eventually, to greet the new millennium, an esoteric biography, Dion Fortune and the Inner Light.

 

The 2000s
And so the work continued with the Society of the Inner Light well on track to re-establishment of the old grade system on a higher arc, an influx of promising new members, and the release of more hitherto unpublished material. This includes Dion Fortune's Principles of Esoteric Healing, a little known but major part of her original work and aspirations; The Arthurian Formula upon which much of the earlier advanced work of the Society was based; and a long overdue recognition of a former leading member of the Fraternity, Pythoness: the Life and Work of Margaret Lumley Brown. Latterly, by popular demand, a series of talks about Dion Fortune has culminated in what looks likely to continue as a regular event, an annual conference in celebration of her life and work. Since my retirement from public workshops and lectures, the focus is once again on writing books.

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