Robert John (R.J.) Stewart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father came from a Gaelic speaking family originallyfrom the Western Highlands. His mother was Welsh, from a Welsh speaking family originally from the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, with a tradition (embodied by three spinster great-aunts) of singing and playing the Welsh triple-harp. He is known today as a composer, author and teacher, with 40 books in publication, translated into many languages worldwide. R.J. has experience in theater, film, and television, and is a skilled performer and presenter.
In 1996 R.J. was admitted to the USA as "resident alien of extraordinary ability," a category awarded only to immigrants of outstanding achievement in the arts or sciences. He now lives in the Pacific North West and in Glastonbury.
R.J. has developed, and teaches, an international program, Inner Temple Traditions Inner Convocation®, exploring original techniques for spiritual growth and transformation. ITIC was founded in the 1980’s and continues in the 21st century with a core group of experienced teachers trained by R.J. and his partner Anastacia Nutt.
From the late 1960's to the 1980's (as Bob Stewart) he worked with traditional British and Irish folk music, medieval music, and his own compositions, playing guitar, cittern, and the unique 70- stringed psaltery that he designed in the early 1970’s. During this period he made several albums of Celtic and original music, and wrote music for theater and media. A partial list of recordings is cited at the end of this biography (1) .
In 1974 he wrote and recorded theme music for The Hobbit (Decca Records) read by Nicol Williamson. During the 1970’s R. J. wrote music and songs for several major theater productions in England, and was a founding member of a theater company in Bristol, England, The Avon Touring Theatre Company, with playwright David Illingworth and actor Tony Robinson.
During the late 1970's and early 1980's he composed and recorded original music for film and television, including original music and musical consultation for the feature films, Joseph Andrews directed by Tony Richardson, and The Dark Crystal, directed by Jim Henson. He also composed and recorded original music for a number of BBC radio dramas, and for documentary feature films produced by the BBC and ITV. Through these films his music has been heard all over the world, and various artists have recorded his original instrumental pieces and songs.
Between 1975 and 1983 R.J. worked with several well known Irish musicians, recording an album of original and traditional music, Tomorrow We Part, with virtuoso uilleann piper Finbar Furey. He arranged and played the 73-string psaltery on albums with renowned English folk artist and song writer Cyril Tawney, and with Shirley Collins.
He also wrote and produced Van Morrison’s recording of the Cuchullainn saga, with poetry and original music based on the ancient Irish epic. The source text for this production was one of R.J.’s books on Irish mythology, Cuchullainn, published by Firebird Books.
Writing and Teaching, Influences and Mentors
From the late 1960’s to mid 1970‘s, R.J. was a student of, and worked with, the late W.G. Gray, a renowned British author and practical Qabalist, whose influence R.J. acknowledges in his own books. Another significant spiritual mentor was the late Alfred Ronald Heaver, who R.J. credits with significantly changing his life-path in the early 1970’s, and sowing the seeds for the most advanced work that he is developing today. Other mentors included astrologer Roberta Gray, wife of W.G., and the poet and metaphysical philosopher Kathleen Raine. Through the Grays R.J. met and worked with Patricia and Arnold Crowther, who embodied the older pagan witchcraft traditions of Britain. Another influence that he credits is Gareth Knight, who first invited him to teach at Hawkwood College, England, where R.J. continues to teach annually with his partner Anastacia.
After 1980 R.J. gradually reduced his commitment to extensive concert touring, to spend more time as a writer and teacher. Between 1980 and
1996 he wrote a series of books on Celtic mythology, two books on music and consciousness, edited two editions of historical texts from the 16th and 17th centuries, and published many original stories in anthologies, and in his own books. R.J.’s books have been translated into French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, and Czechoslovakian.
R. J. Stewart's series of books on the practical transformative potential and methods of UnderWorld and Faery traditions (which he has restored and presented to the public almost single-handed over the last 35 years) have encouraged many people worldwide to work with these ancestral land- oriented spiritual paths. His seminal early book, The UnderWorld Initiation, written in 1978 began a series of books, classes and workshops, that continues developing to this day. Publications are listed at the end of this biography (2).
The Merlin Books
From 1980 to 1988 R.J. worked extensively with the Welsh/ Brythonic Merlin tradition, showing it to be very different from the popular fantasy genre regarding Merlin. The result was two original and influential books translating and exploring genuine medieval Merlin texts. These have remained in print in several editions and languages. Both Merlin books were subsequently published in one volume as Merlin: the Prophetic Vision and Mystic Life, Penguin Arkana, with a revised extended edition in 2012, R. J. Stewart Books. Based on research within these books, R.J. also created the best-selling Merlin Tarot, (Harper Collins) comprising a substantial book and a deck of cards (painted by Miranda Gray) showing visionary themes embedded within the 12th century Merlin texts, and revealing the true historical origins of tarot. Along with The Complete Merlin Tarot reference book, the deck of cards remained in print for more than twenty years from
1986 onwards. The deck and handbook (package) has been translated into Japanese, French, Italian, and German. The Merlin Tarot was featured in a popular anime and related off-shoots, The Vision of Escaflowne.
British Television Dramas and Documentaries
From the 1980s onwards R. J. also advised on, wrote for, and appeared in, a number of television documentary films, including several on magic, mythology, and historical themes. These include four BBC films directed by Ann Paul; Earth Magic, about contemporary magical and pagan practices in Britain; To Hungary with Love and Standing up for Joe, two highly acclaimed films on Conductive Therapy for disabled children; and A Royal Family Album, a historical documentary based upon British Royal Family photograph collections from the 19th century. R.J. composed and recorded the original music for all four films.
He also appears (heavily disguised) in the drama-documentary series Crusades, (presented by Terry Jones of Monty Python) originally broadcast by the BBC in 1995 and the History Channel in 1997. R.J. wrote cittern music and lyrics, and performed the role of minstrel, for this documentary series by award winning director Alan Ereira.
Video and television items featuring R.J. (and various artists cover recordings of his songs) can be found on YouTube, including a longer interview filmed in California in 2006, and R.J’s feature segment in the popular ITV series Desperately Seeking Something which explored various spiritual paths worldwide (3).
Teaching, Workshops, and Performing, to the present day.
From 1988 to the present day R. J. Stewart has taught workshops and classes in the UK and USA, Canada, and Israel. These include working with Celtic and classical mythological traditions, the Faery and UnderWorld traditions, music and consciousness, and his original ongoing program for transforming awareness, the Inner Temple Traditions Inner Convocation ® .
In 1993 he co-wrote his last Celtic mythology book, Celtic Bards, Celtic Druids, (Published by Cassell, Blandford Press) with harper and storyteller Robin Williamson (founder of The Incredible String Band). Today R.J. focuses on innovative material, developed out of the foundations of tradition, and continues to write fiction and non-fiction books.
In 2000 R.J. began performing again on selected musical events and tours, including a tour in the USA with Finbar Furey, and recording a new CD, Aran, with Finbar, featuring original music for uilleann pipes, psaltery, flute, and other instruments. In 2001 R.J. recorded Ballad Magic, a live presentation and concert, exploring and singing ancient magical ballads from British, Irish, and American Appalachian tradition. In 2006 he produced, arranged, and played all instruments on Caitlin Matthew’s Deep Well in the Wildwood a CD of original songs and settings of traditional songs.
Most Recent Publications 2008-2012
2008 The Sphere of Art (vol 1): sacromagical practices from a living initiatory tradition. The first volume of practical work in methods first hinted at by spiritual mentor Alfred Ronald Heaver, during meetings in the 1970’s. Following from the classic Living Magical Arts and Advanced Magical Arts first published in the 1980’s, this new book contains original material previously unpublished.
2012 The Sphere of Art (vol 2), Aesch Mezareph: New methods of spiritual alchemy for deep inner transformation. Developed from Vol I, with material from a 17th century alchemical text.
2012 The Hidden Adept and the Inner Vision: The Story of Ronald Heaver, Polly Wood, and the Sanctuary of Avalon. A biography of A.R.Heaver, including his remarkable adventures in the 1930’s, and the continuing legacy of the Sanctuary of Avalon today (4).
Inner Temple Traditions and The Sanctuary of Avalon
From 2006 to the present day R.J. Stewart and his partner Anastacia Nutt have been stewards of The Sanctuary of Avalon, a silent spiritual sanctuary with small buildings in Britain and the USA. The Sanctuary brings the foundation laid by A.R.Heaver and the Inner Temple Traditions of R.J. Stewart into the 21st century, creating an attuned sacred space whereby people may find spiritual truths and insights for themselves by sitting in silence. Anastacia directs and co-teaches an international program of classes and workshops founded on the Inner Temple Traditions.
NOTES, BOOKS, RECORDINGS, VIDEOS, WEB-LINKS
(1) Music recordings, Albums, Cassettes, CDs (partial list). The Unique Sound of the Psaltery, Decca/Argo 1974. Tomorrow We Part, with Finbar Furey, Crescent Records, 1976. The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies-O, Crescent Records, 1976. Up like the Swallow, Broadside Records, 1978. Aran with Finbar Furey, 2000. Ballad Magic, 2001. Deep Well in the Wildwood with Caitlin Matthews, 2006.
CD’s based on material in R.J.Stewart’s books, containing original music and visualizations include:
Advanced Magical Arts (2 CD set), Calling in the Elements (Elemental Chanting), The Inner Temples, The Spirit Cord, The Miracle Tree, The Well of Light, The Sphere of Art, The Rollright Ritual (with W.G.Gray, remastered from 1972 recordings.
(2) A list of books currently in print, recordings and other works is featured at www.rjstewart.net, and a categorized list of books and articles, in clu din g o u t o f pr in t o r r a r e ite m s, ca n be f o u n d a t www.dreampower.com/reading_list.html
Further biographical material can be found in “Bristol Folk” by Mark Jones ISBN 978-0-9563531-0-8. Pages 88-91 and 151-157. Also in “The Old Sod: the odd life and inner work of W.G.Gray” by Alan Richardson and Marcus Claridge, ISBN 978-1-908011-12-1. Pages 162-167.
(3) Desperately Seeking Something: http://youtu.be/OveEKD5jC2A
2006 Interview: http://youtu.be/Q_1ya3SY_ws
(4) Excerpts from these titles are available at www.rjstewart.net
www.rjstewart.net The online Book and CD store. www.rjstewart.org Calendar, free texts, and resources. www.dreampower.com Unique website for the Dreampower Tarot, which includes a reading-generator for educational purposes, downloadable templates for readings and meditation, and many other resources. www.innerconvocation.com The esoteric website for Inner Temple Traditions Inner Convocation ®. Contains free resources, texts, meditations, and visualizations.