the 1960’s and 70’s there were very few serious
practitioners of Western magic in Britain. Today, when
magicians and people claiming to be magicians, number
in thousands, or so it seems, it may be hard for someone
to imagine a situation where the aspiring student had
few choices. One of those few choices was W G Gray, who,
prior to my association with him, had also worked with
several other students or associates now known as teachers
in their own right, including the renowned Qabalist Gareth
Knight. Plus a number of others now lost, so to speak.
I cannot vouch for what happened after I parted company
with Bill Gray in the mid 1970’s, but I have had
some excellent email correspondence with Jacobus Swart
in South Africa, who inherited Bill’s Sangreal
Order. Jacobus has given me some insights into the period
from the mid-70’s to Bill’s death in the
1990’s. The rest must come from Jacobus himself.
So this was my life in the late 1960’s: I
wanted to find a teacher, but was aware mainly of Eastern (actually neo-Eastern)
traditions, highly popularized by the hippy era. How I discovered W G Gray is
a story not of diligent research or failed attempts at contact with obscure teachers,
but something quite different. I found Bill Gray through inner contacts. Inner
Contacts is a term widely used nowadays to mean conscious psycho-spiritual connection
with actual coherent and identifiable spiritual entities in other dimensions.
As this concept is central to all practical magic, it seems hardly surprising,
in retrospect, that inner contacts played a major role in my relationship with
Here is what happened:
Around 1968 or 69 I was meditating, in my garret,
much like any other impoverished musician in his late teens or early twenties,
but without the drugs. To my surprise someone appeared to me in my meditations,
each day at exactly 4 pm: this appearance was what, today, we call an inner contact.
He was an old oriental man, radiating an intense blue, which had a calming and
inspiring effect. When I became practiced at Qabalah, I later discovered that
this was an inner contact mediating the spiritual forces of the 4th Emanation,
that of Mercy and Compassion.
This inner plane master taught me the basics of
meditation and work with the subtle forces of the body: not so much in words,
as in sensation and (usually) wordless intimations. Indeed, much was somehow
stored in my consciousness by this contact, information and dormant abilities
that opened out over a number of years. This process is known to adepts (though
I did not know about it at the time), as an interaction whereby concentrated “seeds” of
development are transmitted to the student instantly, but flourish and grow over
time. Providing, of course, the student chooses consciously to work with them.
Otherwise they stay quiet, perhaps to flourish in a future life.
So what, I hear you ask, has all this got to do
with W G Gray? Well, in 1969 Helios Book Service, run at that time by Gareth
Knight and John Hall, published Bill’s book Magical Ritual Methods, which
became a revolutionary classic of 20th century magical literature. I found this
book, in hardback, newly printed, in the staid conservative Reference Library
of Bristol city, in the west of England, where I was living. There must have
been a librarian with active esoteric interests there in those days: when I visited
this same library, nostalgically, in the early 1990’s there was not a magical
or esoteric book to be seen.
So I found this curious book, Magical Ritual Methods,
and began to study it at one of the library reading desks. While reading, someone
looked over my shoulder, and asked me repeatedly and persistently about the book,
though reference libraries are supposed to be Temples of Silence. Was this mystery
person W G Gray, as you might suspect? No, it was someone who probably stole
the book from the library that very day, and it was never replaced. I had to
order a copy from Helios, thus buying my first W G Gray book. In those days they
were mailed “in a plain paper cover” to ensure anonymity and the
safety of the recipient. My first tarot deck, the Waite/Coleman Smith deck came
the same way, much as if it were seditious literature. Which of course, it always
When I returned to the garret for my 4 o’clock
meditation, little knowing that Gray’s book would not be in the library
the following morning, my inner plane teacher appeared very strongly to me. Something
unusual happened: he drew close, as if making a powerful effort to reach into
the human world, and said very clearly in my mind “Good. You have found
the book. You will not see me again for a long time. Goodbye”. And from
that day to this, I have not encountered him again.
So, when my discreet mail-ordered copy of Bill’s
book finally arrived, I began the practices described therein, and knew immediately
that I had done this before, and that it was central to my life. I wrote to W
G Gray care of the publishers, and received a reply. We corresponded for a while,
and I was invited to visit the Grays, William and Roberta, in Cheltenham. So
began our relationship, which lasted for about 7 years, until Bill and I fell
Fell out is perhaps a modest understatement: in
truth, Bill cursed me ritually for failing to live up to his expectations. This
was a pattern with him, though I knew it not at the time. To the gentle modern
magician or pagan it may come as a shock, but the old school occultists were
able and willing to utter powerful curses if they were displeased. Bill Gray
had very trenchant opinions about everything, and backed them up with magical
actions. I do not think this is appropriate today, but for a wartime generation
who had seen many hardships, many broken promises, many deaths of loved ones;
this attitude may be understood, though not condoned. Also, Bill and Bobby were
of that strong-minded generation of English military and air force officers with
powerful nationalistic and racist opinions. Tut tut, say we all, as politically
correct magicians of the 21st century, but that is the way it was.
So Bill Gray cursed me ritually, after 7 years
or so of my work as a student or apprentice. The details of the falling out are
less important than the event, but we argued over some music I had composed and
recorded for his major work “The Rite of Light”, and I was not to
Here is the strange truth of this incident: it
was good for me. At the time it was painful and difficult, and the effect of
a curse from WG was not to be taken lightly. It was good for me: I learned a
great deal from it, on the inner levels, and discovered that the dark side of
a spiritual teacher is as valuable to the student as the light side. In short,
W G Gray was the best teacher I could have had, was the teacher that had been
lined up for me by the inner contacts, and I remember him with affection and
respect today. Spiritual forces are not as simple as we like to think, and the
inner temples always bring us into contact with those who will best serve.
Of course there was much that happened in those
seven years: I had the good fortune to take part in rituals with Bill and Bobby
Gray, Patricia Crowther (a high priestess of Gardnerian witchcraft, and very
powerful.) and Pat’s first husband Arnold, who was no slouch at magic himself.
Arnold used to poke fun at Bill continuously, and call him “the Pope”,
as Bill liked to dress in a rather Roman Church style for ritual. Arnold also,
playfully, mocked Bill’s habit of doggerel rhyme, such as Bill’s
signing a book to me “To Bob from Bill/ Be What You Will”. Arnold
once said, in aside to me, “What’s in the ritual tonight ? Is it
Air and Fire, Earth and Water/ Doing what we think we oughter ?”
I lost many photographs from the 60’s and
70’s, but a photograph of Pat, Bill, and my youthful self, taken at the
Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, appears in Pat’s autobiography, “One
Roberta, (Bobby) Gray was an astrologer, a science
fiction writer, and she knew a lot about Celtic mythology long before it became
fashionable. In retrospect I realize that I learned much from her, though I thought
Bill was the sole teacher. There were late nights drinking whiskey and listening
to outrageously right wing opinions from Bill, who would revert to Russian after
several glasses of whiskey, a language that he could not speak when sober. The
Grays were cat people, and I even took my cat to visit their cats. One of the
few photographs I have of that time shows my cat and one of their cats, peering
at one another through the kitchen window.
I learned the foundations of Qabalah during those
years, the basics of ritual, and, most important of all, I was initiated by Bill
into the inner priesthood. This is done by laying on of hands, in a ceremony
that must reach back for thousands of years, no matter what current form it takes.
So I received the sacred touch, handed down through the ages, just as Bill had
received it from his initiator and mentor. By this time Bill had argued with
all his old friends, and he had to make a plea to Norman Gibbs to take part in
the initiation ceremony, as it must always be witnessed and mediated by at least
one other initiate. That was the only time I met Norman, and I have no idea where
he is today, or if he is still alive.
There was one remarkable event, other than the curse, that stands
out for me, and which gave rise to the core of some my own magical
work. Once again it is about inner contacts, not outer teaching or
One day Bill gave me a rather crumpled and stained
scrap of paper with a magical square drawn on it, a square of just four numbers,
1-4, in a particular order. I kept the original for years, but mislaid it somewhere
along the way to the 21st century. However it is reproduced in several of my
books, and illustrated in this article. Magical squares were a big deal for Renaissance
magicians, but 19th century occultists and their heirs had lost the understanding
of them…if you do not believe me, just read any of the many books published
that repeat the squares but give no insight into how they work.
Bill handed me the paper and said, “ This
is a magic square. I think it is about music, but as I am tone deaf I do not
understand it. I think it is for you. Let me know what you make of it”.
Thus began the system of Elemental Chant and associated magic that I later published
as two books, and which I use in my own magical work, and which has now been
taken up by many people worldwide.
Bill had received the square from his inner contacts, and handed
it to me. I had to figure it out, work with it, and transmit its
effects, knowledge, and power, to the world. No small task. And,
surprisingly, as soon as I meditated upon that simple number square,
many remarkable results followed. So I have Bill to thank as mediator,
and the inner temples to thank as originators, for opening out this
powerful path of magic, which has played a strong role in my life.
In the early 1990’s I had one last sequence
of inner contact involving Bill Gray. One day I had a deep urge to go to Glastonbury,
and I convinced my wife (now a former wife) and a lady friend of hers who was
visiting that we absolutely had to go there immediately. It was raining some
of the time, and we trudged around the Abbey, the Tor, and the sentimental touristy
New Age stores. Somewhat of an anticlimax, I thought. But I was told a few days
later that this had been the day when Bill’s ashes were scattered on the
Around the time of Bill’s death, I wrote
to Bobby, saying briefly that they had both been a powerful influence on me,
and that my feelings were of respect and deep affection. A reply came from Bobby’s
sister, who told me that Bobby had died more or less as I was writing my letter.
I always felt that she had somehow received it.
Finally, I have no sense of W G Gray in the spirit
world, though I can sense other mentors such as Ronald Heaver, one of the Glastonbury
adepts, in the Inner Convocation.
So, to summarize, I might say this: if you consider
living the magical life be aware that books will always be stolen, curses uttered,
mysterious scraps of paper circulated. But there is also inspiration, power,
love and mystery. W G Gray combined deep spiritual impetus and mysticism with
rabid eccentricity, neo-fascism and complex occultism, but he was as influential
as Dion Fortune before him in moving the Western magical tradition forward. In
Bill’s case it was the old British Army method of three steps forward and
two steps back. But that one step is still being measured today, and I am grateful
He used to joke that he wanted the rude two-fingered
V sign, a very British way of giving offense, carved upon his grave: indeed,
he had a wooden model hand carved with its first two fingers extended and an
offensive motto on the stand. Was this trivial? Maybe, but when the rude V sign,
given with the back of the hand turned outwards, is turned the other way, palm
outwards, it is the V for Victory sign, which had deep meaning and emotional
association for the British generation who lived through, and survived, the Second
From an esoteric perspective Victory is the 7th
Emanation of the Tree of Life, that of sensuality, exaltation, the goddess Venus,
and the Archangel of Wisdom. This Archangel is Auriel, keeper of the Sacred Book
of Wisdom, mediator of Grace to humanity, and guardian of the deepest Mysteries
of Earth. Such a seemingly paradoxical mixture of wild feelings, deep emotions,
and hidden wisdom, all of the 7th Emanation, summarizes, for me, the drama of
W G Gray’s long and influential life. Victory, Bill.
R J STEWART (short biography)
Robert John Stewart is known today as one of the
leading writers and teachers of the Western magical traditions. R J was born
in Scotland, lived in Bath, England for many years, and now lives in the USA,
where he was admitted as “resident alien of extraordinary ability”,
a status awarded only those of the highest standing in the arts or sciences.
He is author of 41 books translated into many languages worldwide, and founder
of the Inner Temple Traditions, a network that teaches and mediates sacro-magical
spiritual arts. He is also a composer and musician, with many film, television
and theater productions to his credit. R J first received Qabalah from W G Gray
in the early 1970’s, and works in the lineage of Gray, Dion Fortune, and
Ronald Heaver, through writing, teaching, and direct spiritual transmission.
His books on the faery and underworld traditions have transformed many aspects
of modern magic and pagan spirituality, and he is author of a seminal series
of books on the figure of Merlin in Celtic tradition, and of two influential
books on contemporary magical arts. His most recent book, The Miracle Tree, Demystifying
Qabalah, is the fruit of more than 30 years of meditation, experience, and received
teachings upon the Tree of Life.