In the early years of this century there emerged from the Society of the Golden Dawn a woman destined to become one of the most famous and accomplished magicians of her time. Her name was Violet Mary Firth (1890-1946), later to be known as Dion Fortune. Taking what she had been taught in the Golden Dawn, and melding it to her own deeply Celtic soul with its memories of the Drowned Lands of Atlantis, she built around herself a school, still living today, the Society of Inner Light. She said to those who asked to know how to discern the best Mystery School in which to enroll, ‘Look at the men and women who come out from its door: they are living proof of that school’s ideals and principles’.
From the Society of Inner Light came many highly trained occultists and magicians, mystics and sensitives, some to be famous, others to exercise and teach their craft in near secrecy. Dr. Penry-Evans, Dion Fortune’s husband; Colonel C R F Seymour, a uniquely talented magician and a High Priest of rare ability; Christine Hartley, Seymour’s Priestess and Seer; Margaret Lumley-Brown, unknown outside the Society of Inner Light, yet one of the first Cosmic Mediators of this century; W G Gray; Gareth Knight; and the man who cycled from Southampton to Glastonbury one summer’s day and became one of her right-hand men – W E Butler. She greeted him with the words, ‘I’ve been waiting for you’, and presented him with a rose from her garden. He had been told in India some months before to ‘go to the sacred hill, to the Lady with the Roses’.
W E Butler, noted for his highly readable books on magical training, had worked with his his own Inner Level contact and teacher since the days when he worked with his first teacher the Liberal Catholic Church Bishop, Robert King (1869-1954) who was also a psychic medium of repute. With Dion Fortune’s permission he set up a satellite Lodge of the Society of the Inner Light in the Guildford area during the years preceding the Second World War. The Lodge disbanded at the time of WWII. Following Dion Fortune’s death on January 8th 1946 W.E. Butler remained a member of the Society of the Inner Light but worked mostly in the outer circle of the group. He had been most active as one of the teachers and organisers in the Inner Light in the 1930s. In the early 1960s Ernest was approached by Gareth Knight and John Hall of the Helios Book Service to help develop a correspondence course called The Helios Course in the Practical Qabalah, of which six preliminary lessons had been written by Gareth Knight. Butler wrote the remaining 50 lessons of the Course in alignment with the guidance of his Inner Teacher that he had worked with for many years. In 1972 Gareth Knight bowed out and the simple correspondence course became Servants of the Light School of Occult Science under the Directorship of W E Butler. A group of five supervisors became the core of the Group under W.E. Butler’s guidance as Director of Studies, they were: Tom Oloman, Olive Ashcroft, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Michael Nowicki and Mariton Geikie. Dolores and Michael had trained in the Society of Inner Light in the 1960s and taken Initiation there some years before. Now under the guidance of W E Butler they set about the building of a true School of the Mysteries.
Dolores rapidly developed from a clairsensitive into a Mediator of exceptional ability, finally, under the teaching of W E Butler, contacting his own Inner Level Teacher and being accepted by Him as the next Director of Studies. On W E Butler’s death in 1978, Dolores ratified her pledge made at Initiation years before, to give her life into the service of the Inner Plane Adepti, whilst Michael was given the responsibility of looking after the financial affairs of the SOL. About six months before Mr Butler’s death, Mr Butler appointed Michael, in the presence of witnesses, the Guardian of the SOL.
The SOL, as it is now affectionately known, has become a school of international repute, working through correspondence lessons and, in the U.K. and in some other countries, with weekend courses and seminars. It has gradually extended its influence into twenty-three countries. It has refused to become a Big Money Earner, remaining small and exclusive. It has no big offices and no professional staff; Dolores runs it from her own home. It is registered as a non-profit-making organisation, and no-one, not even the Director, is paid. The supervisors, who guide each student, are taken from students and trained to become Friends, Guides and Companions as well as teachers. Every applicant has to answer a questionnaire which is carefully read and psychically screened. Not everyone is accepted, but those who are have an opportunity to start on what could be a lifetime of self-discovery.
SOL does not promise a sudden burgeoning of psychic powers. It does not offer every student the possibility of becoming a high priest or priestess, a magician or a top-flight clairvoyant. It does offer a graduated training aimed at the balancing of the inner and outer selves designed to make a student into a responsible, well orientated, open-minded individual. If there are psychic talents there, the training will awaken them and polish them, bring them under control. If they are too deeply buried, then, at least, the student emerges with a well-adjusted insight into the ancient Mysteries and a sense of being one link in a chain stretching back into the past ages, and forward into the future.
The Director of Studies undertakes many workshops, lectures and seminars each year, traveling thousands of miles to SOL students and non-students alike. The SOL is a ‘family’, a group of people enclosed within a mighty and powerful egregore. What affects one, affects all, be it joy or sorrow. There is no glamour in the SOL training, nothing but hard, sometimes dull, repetitive work and study. Where there are enough students, small groups are encouraged. In certain places the SOL now has Lodges where practical work with ritual and ceremonial is done. In the UK, the USA, Mexico, and other international destinations, workshops in esoteric subjects are arranged, facilitated by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and other teachers, to bring the Western Mystery Tradition to those who seek for it, albeit unknowingly.
The SOL’s Director, Michael Nowicki, on the other hand, developed a Mystical training under the title of Sanctum Sanctorum, The Divinity Within. This developed into three sections which eventually led candidates through the gates into The Order of the Inner Sanctum. The training within the Sanctum Sanctorum is based on Qabalistic teachings, yet it embraces all ethnic beliefs without any discrimination but with one proviso – that it be on the Path of Light. Michael does not travel often now but still works in the heart of the School supporting Dolores and students as a Guardian. He has passed the teachings of the Sanctum Sanctorum to Jorge Nájera in Mexico and to Steven Critchley in the UK.