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The First Degree

SOL Practical Course
on the Mystical Qabalah


The Qabalah is the foundation of the Western Mystery Tradition, just as the Yoga Sutras, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and other holy works are the foundations of the Eastern Tradition. In its entirety, the Qabalah is the great body of philosophy to be found in the religion texts of the Jews; including the Old Testament of the Bible, particularly the Pentateuch. It can also be seen in the vast complex of astrological, alchemical and occult symbology that has come down to us, as well as in the Rosicrucian and Masonic myth - including the Tarot, which is indigenous to the West.

According to tradition, the Qabalah is the revelation of God given to man in early times through the mediation of the Archangel most near to God - Metatron. Originally, it was considered so holy that it was reserved as an oral tradition, hence the name Qabalah, which means "mouth to ear". However, from the twelfth century, part of it was written down, and became available to us through the translations of men like Picus de Mirandola, Knorr von Rosenroth and Cornelius Agrippa.

The tradition remained more or less secret owing to persecution of its adherents by the Christian Church and - later - owing to the derision and disinterest accorded to it by materialistic science and thought. Because of this enforced underground existence, the tradition of the West compares badly with that of the East when it comes to documentation of its sacred wisdom. Little was written comparatively and what was written stood a very good chance of being destroyed. Today we see the results of this in that many students of the occult derive their learning and inspiration from Eastern sources - mainly brought to the West through the efforts of Madame Blavatsky. Valuable as this line of tradition is, we feel that many Western Students would derive more satisfaction in being given the opportunity to study their native tradition.

The Tree of Life

Fortunately, the entire wisdom of the Qabalah is contained in one simple yet unique and marvellous diagram known as ETZ CHAIM, the Tree of Life. Simple, yes. But this glyph has been described as "the Mighty, All-Embracing Glyph of the Soul of Man and the Universe." Without this composite symbol, it is probable that the Western Tradition would have been entirely destroyed. Owing to its simplicity, however, the glyph is easily committed to memory; and because of its profundity, from this sparse simplicity can be derived a complete and satisfying philosophy and knowledge of life in both its inner and outer aspects.

The Tree of Life can be likened to a card-index system, in which we can file not only data gained from our conscious sense perception of the physical world, but also data obtained by various means from the inner levels - be it subjective or objective. The latter is mainly discerned by way of dreams, psycho-analytical techniques, psychic experiences and so on.

The techniques of occultism are used to open up an awareness of such psychic experiences in a way that is natural, controlled and systematic. The way to retain one's bearings during such expansions of consciousness is to use a universal chart or map of all manifested existence - such a map is the Tree of Life.

Training in the Mysteries

As with all learning, in occultism the ideal form of tuition is the close personal supervision by a master craftsman of an apprentice or pupil, either as an individual pupil or within the structure of a group or school. Owing to the inner nature of things, a group can be doubly helpful; for a pool of inner awareness or a Group Mind can be formed, which may be tapped by the individual - any group being potentially more than the sum total of its parts.

However, a good group is hard to find and a spurious or badly run group is worse than no group at all. Also, because of the diversity of human nature, it may well be that a well-run group is not always suitable for all types of applicants. There may also be reasons of geography or physical circumstance that may well make participation of an otherwise ideal group impractical.

So, for many, the only answer is a Correspondence School - providing it is properly and responsibly run. It is a substitute, just as any correspondence course for any other skill is a substitute for the traditional apprenticeship; but if the student will work hard and stick to the self-discipline required considerable progress can be made. Indeed, the fact that it is a harder way of learning may well produce a better pupil in the end. For in the end it is the determination, persistence and innate ability of the student which determines the measure of success, and the opening up of further opportunities.

Our Course

This Course is a practical one. It starts the student on practical work right away. Thus the student has some personal experience of what he is learning about when he reaches the more theoretical work on the Tree. In this way, a student more easily overcomes the barrier of knowledge of the Tree, the finding of the "way in" to its mysteries.

It is such a self-contained system that none of its parts can be understood without taking into account the relationship with all the other parts. This can produce difficulties in knowing where to start. A little personal experience in the beginning overcomes this.

This School wishes to avoid the purely theoretical student. The Qabalah is a practical system and cannot be fully understood without personal experience of its praxis. So this course is not to be considered a mere academic system of study All levels of the student's being is involved - not just the intellect. This is carried right through the curriculum and through all the degrees that can be taken. At all times practice, as well as theory, is emphasised.

The initial textbook used is The Art of True Healing by Israel Regardie - a former member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Dr. Regardie has written many books on occult subjects; but The Art of True Healing is the quintessence of all his Qabalistic knowledge. It gives a basic and simplified picture of Qabalistic philosophy.

The Art of True Healing serves as a text book for the first six lessons. After this, you will need the two volumes (one volume in the Weiser Edition) of Gareth Knight's Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, which will take you not only through the rest of the course, but will also act as a reference book for many years of study. Although they are not text-books as such, we also advise our students to read J. Campbell's book The Hero with a Thousand Faces - which assists in understanding the importance of myth in the occult - and Magic for the Aquarian Age by Marian Green, which is a very good basic book for new students. In addition, the Director of Studies, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, has written several books with SOL students particularly in mind. Among these are: First Steps in Ritual and The Shining Paths.

An outline of the First Degree Course may therefore be seen like this:

Course Section Lesson Written by Text-book
Preliminary Course Prel. Lesson 1-6 Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki None
Main Course Lesson 1-6 Gareth Knight The Art of True Healing (Israel Regardie)
  Lesson 7-50 W E Butler A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism (Gareth Knight)

You will find with this introduction a list of books - both fiction and non-fiction, that we feel are of particular help with the understanding of the occult in all its aspects. Students are advised, if possible, to choose their evening reading from this list. You are also advised to make yourself familiar with the Arthurian cycle of legend, and with the mythology of the Celts. Any mythological knowledge you acquire will not be wasted. The ability to cross-index the legends and god forms can be of immense value in the understanding of the ancient past. All can be applied to the Tree of Life, and thus maintained in the memory without undue strain.

A Lesson on the Tree of Life

It may help at this early stage of your training to build a replica of the Tree of Life, taking it step by step, and basing it as far as possible on everyday experiences. The sooner you make yourself familiar with the shape and the technique of drawing it, the better. Alan Richardson's little book An Introduction to the Mystical Qabalah, can be of great assistance. Now, we are about to embark on a study of occult science, by which we mean: that which is hidden behind the veil of physical existence. So, take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a circle at the bottom of the paper to represent physical existence - not only of the body, but of the planet, and all that is on it, and beyond it to include the entire universe.

At the top of the paper, draw another circle. This represents the Godhead, the unknown inner source from which all else issues. This is the Essential Self of the human being, the God of our physical existence. We now have two reference points, the physical existence, and the spiritual source. Our task now is to fill in the space between - which in effect is the inner universe known to us through occult tradition and mystical observation.

We start from the bottom circle of physical existence which is the natural focus and conditioning power of the consciousness of man. Obviously, we are more than just a body; we have minds and emotions. The analysing power of the mind and the driving force of the emotions act as complimentary forces within our psyches; so draw circles to represent them, one on each side of the lower circle, but about a third of the way up the page. That on the left represents the mind, the one on the right the emotions. (They also represent a whole complex of other things, but for now we will keep to the basics).

Nowadays, almost everyone is aware that we have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind which also acts as the seat of the instincts and the automatic nervous system. This we represent as another circle situated above the bottom circle but between and slightly lower than those of the mind and the emotions.

There is a third aspect of mind which occultists know as the super- consciousness, This is the place of the conscience, the "religious instinct" and the point of all that is best in us. The circle for this is placed centrally above those of the mind and the emotions - the same distance above them as the circle of the subconscious is below them. We should now have a diagram looking something like this:

We now move into areas where we have no direct experience. The last circle, situated midway between the highest and the lowest circles, is a very important one. It is the balancing point in more ways than one of the glyph we are building. When we have finished our mortal lives, it absorbs the essence of all our experiences before sending out another projection of itself into another physical incarnation. Therefore, this centre of higher consciousness within us - for remember, this glyph symbolises man - builds up in evolutionary time a vast mass of human experience in essence. It is the central focus of the Higher Self as opposed to the Lower Self, symbolised by the four lower circles (and for "lower" do not read "bad"). The Lower Self lasts for a human lifetime, the body dispersing at death, the consciousness rather later, after experiencing the lower Astral Worlds, but the Higher Self lasts for a whole evolution.

We now enter two more circles on our glyph, one on each side, above the central circle. Now we are dealing with abstract principles rather than mentation and emotion. We can see the right hand circle as the constructive metabolic principle behind life, and the left hand circle as the dispersing catabolic principle. They must not be seen as "good" and "evil" but as "positive" and "negative", "male" and "female" - each complementing the other.

Now we draw a line above these last two circles. This represents a complete change of dimension We are moving into "Eternity". This line is traditionally known as THE ABYSS, though there is a narrow bridge across it, usually drawn as a dotted circle, and known to all Qabalists as Da'ath, which means knowledge.

We know very little of the state of things across the Abyss, except to surmise that - like that which is below the Abyss - things are based on the Triad. So we place two more circles on each side - a little above the Abyss, but below the topmost circle. This is the THREE IN ONE Godhead; although the allocation of Persons is not the same in this context as it is in the Christian Trinity. But we will not venture too far into speculative theology. It is enough for the moment to look upon the three top circles as being: on the right, the ALL-FATHER; on the left, the ALL-MOTHER, and above and between them, the FOUNT OF CREATION.

For identification purposes, we can now number the circles, starting from the top and moving downwards in a zig-zag fashion, like a lightning flash, like this:

If you have drawn a circle across the line to represent Da'ath, note that it is not numbered.

Each of these circles is known technically as a Sephirah, plural Sephiroth, meaning "Emanation(s)" All have names and titles and a great many symbolic attributes. All are ways that can lead us in and out of the maze of the inner worlds, rather like Ariadne's thread led Theseus through the Labyrinth of the Minotaur.

The pattern you have just drawn is the basic key concept to each Sephirah based on the psychological make-up of man. But there are also objective as well as subjective, correspondences to the Sephiroth. For instance, we said at the beginning that the tenth Sephirah symbolises not only the physical body of man, but the entire physical universe. The same applies to the higher Sephiroth. There is also an objective lower Astral World corresponding to the personal subconscious which is opened up with such drastic consequences in drug addiction. It is a world of suppressed fantasies and dreams, and comes under the ninth Sephirah.

Now we proceed up the Tree, and there is a higher Astral World that correlates with the seventh and eighth spheres; then worlds of existence on even higher levels, and different types of "pure being" which have been recorded by the mystics of many denominations - all of which correspond with the Sephiroth until the supreme "Union with Godhead" of Sephirah 1 is reached.

The Aims of the First Degree Course

In the First Degree Main Course, it is the aim of the SOL to open up access to these worlds in full conscious control. The Tree of Life is only one of many blueprints for doing this. It is the basic training upon which all your future occult work and study will rest. Without the stability of such training, the higher - sometimes more exciting, if one can apply that word to occult study - work cannot be successful. With determination and hard work it can lead to initiation - though different people mean different things by that much misused word.

Providing they possess the underlying ability and aptitude for the work, those taking this course will obtain a progress and advantage comparable to anyone working in a physical lodge under the personal guidance of its Magus. The whole purpose of the SOL; the reason for its founding, is to cater for those who are - for many reasons - unable to take the closer tuition from a Master Craftsman. But, since its founding, the School has grown and has expanded on its original ideas. Now we provide an opportunity - at least once a year - for students and their tutors to meet and talk. The future may bring more such opportunities.

In the First Degree Main Course, we work with the symbolism of the Arthurian Round Table; and aim to produce an association of well-trained men and women who are capable of making progress and acting on their own initiative in the performance of practical occultism, once they have completed the course. Those who know a little of this kind of work know that there is always an inner and higher aspect of a genuine mystery school. It works from a level that transcends the physical and filters down through a natural Hierarchy. There are initiations that we undergo by virtue of our own merit and hard work that are quite irrespective of any ceremonial you may go through in a lodge. Since its inception, the SOL has progressed to a point where it has begun to work along deeper lines than before; and this means that new insights and new opportunities are becoming increasingly available to our students. This happens to all truly "contacted" schools and groups. By contacted, we mean those schools that are in close psychic touch with the overshadowing Hierarchy on the Inner Planes. It is in this Inner Group that the real power resides; and from there it is mediated in various ways to its counterpart on the physical level. The SOL is so contacted, and its inner powers are slowly becoming available to those who come within its sphere of influence.


If the quality of work and its application have been up to the standard required, sometime during their Fellowship a Fellow will be offered Initiation. The criterion will not be how many lessons have been done, but the kind of person they show themselves to be and the quality of their work. This decision will be made by the Director of Studies alone. On Initiation the Fellow will give up the golden cord and will be given a scarlet one in its place.

Remember this: tradition says that it takes three lives to become an Initiate; if it is not offered to you it does not mean you are not worthy, but that you still have some way to go in your apprenticeship, and there are many ways in which you can still be of great help and service to mankind.

Our Aims and Ideals

We are often asked to define our aims and ideals. This is as it should be, for no one should enter a school of occult training without satisfying themselves that it is of sound character and built on a strong and ethical foundation.

Our aim is to play a part in the giving out of the Western Mystery Training. For too long now the Western Tradition has trailed behind, and has come close to losing its own Sacred Way altogether. Now, public opinion has eased, and there is an urgent need for seekers of all ages to resume the Quest of the Grail. The need for sound esoteric training is more urgent than it has ever been.

We do not claim, as others do, that the occult way holds all the answers to the world's ills; but we do claim that it has a part to play in the eventual victory over them. We believe, sincerely, that the ancient traditions hold a timeless key which may be applied to modern life and its problems. We aim to train dedicated men and women who will help others to achieve the inner serenity that is their birthright.

Today's occultist is no longer merely a robed and mysterious figure - though both the robes and the mystery may at times be employed in ritual - but one who strives to use all those wonderful and mysterious powers that belong to man by right. Powers that have lain dormant for centuries, and which are being re-discovered by occultists and scientists alike.

To teach, that is our aim. To teach well, and with love. To teach what we have been taught; and in that teaching, to form close knit bonds that will bring all faiths and traditions into one united Brotherhood. The SOL is pendant to the ancient School of Alexandria, where all faiths and beliefs were welcomed, and their knowledge shared. We do not teach any faith or religion, or exalt any one above another. Though we teach the Western Way, we do not oppose that of the East; but look upon it as one of the many bright strands of faith that make up the Divine Pattern.

If we stress the Western Way, it is because we believe it is more suited to the Western way of life and thinking. The lessons we offer are designed to affect the deeper levels of the mind, and this can be trying in the first stages; but everything is tuned to develop and train the latent powers of the mind. But it does not happen overnight; or even in a few weeks. It takes years to train a magician.

This kind of teaching places a great responsibility on those who do the actual teaching. It is not generally known that a teacher accepts - in some part - responsibility if the student takes the wrong path; or misuses newly opened power lines. Yet there is always someone willing to teach, knowing that the only reward is to train someone to be greater and better than oneself in the ancient ways of the Mysteries.

We do not impose our will on a student. We expect them to form their own judgements; to ask questions, and to develop a responsible attitude toward their studies. We cannot do the work for you; you must want to do it. We will, however, help whenever and however we can. All our tutors have been students themselves, and know the difficulties that can arise.

Our Ideals are simple - to offer the best we can to those who wish to learn; to reach as far and as high as we can in search of Truth. To be true to ourselves; our teachings; and to those who guide us. To train without favour all who come, regardless of race, creed or colour.


We do not claim to develop psychic powers in all our students, some have a natural talent and it takes little to bring their powers to the surface. Others find it a long and tedious path. We hope to train well-balanced knowledgeable people with characters stabilised by Qabalistic methods. The course is long, and strenuous, but those who finish it will have achieved something really worthwhile.

In some students, psychism is so close to the surface that it opens up within a few months. This has caused some panic in the past. Many come hoping for such things; but when it happens they head for the hills! There is nothing to fear. You are within the protection of the School Egregore. In any event, courage is one of the many things you need when training in the Mysteries. It is one thing to knock at the door. When the door opens - that is the time for decisions.

The Structure of the School

Like the Mystery Schools of ancient times, and the great Egyptian School to which it is affiliated on the Inner Levels, the SOL is a three-level structure. The name Servants of the Light encompasses both the first degree course, and our links with the world at large. It is the name by we are known, and under which we advertise. It is a level complete unto itself, and a student may choose to end his or her studies with the last Lesson.

As soon as a new student is accepted that person will become an Entered Novice and will remain so until the 12th lesson. By then we will have a good idea of the student's ability in the work and if they are likely to stay the full course. When the 12th lesson is received, and if the supervisor's report is favourable, then the Novice will be notified that he or she is now working within the First Degree of the School, and therefore drops the style of Novice and becomes a Fellow within the Fellowship of the SOL (The First Degree). If the supervisor's report is otherwise, then a further six months of work will be required and the standard of work improved before admission into the Fellowship is granted. This is to ensure that the highest standards possible are achieved by SOL students. It is hoped this will also act as a spur against the old problem of inertia.

The First Degree will extend right through the First Degree Correspondence Course, and certain conditions will apply. If a Fellow intends to go through into the Second Degree, then he must attend the series of three Practical Workshops in Ritual Magic. The same group attends right through the series with one meeting every six months, going through the Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced courses within a 12-month period.

All Fellows attending practical work seminars/group work etc. will be required to wear a simple black robe, preferrably hooded. Novices wear a white cord round the waist, Fellows a golden cord. A small insignium incorporating the Bee from the SOL logo will be worn on the robes over the left breast. These will be obtainable from Jersey.

If a Fellow does not wish to go through to the higher Degrees, there is no compulsion to do so, and therefore he or she will not have to attend the Practical Workshops. If no group work is intended there will obviously be no need for a robe. For each of the three main workshops attended a Fellow will be given a blue wooden bead to slip onto his cord. This means that at a glance it may be seen who is a Novice (black robe, plain white cord), a Fellow (black robe, golden cord) and who has attended or is attending the Practical Workshops (black robe, cord with one, two or three blue beads).

All we have placed before you here may be achieved by hard work, determination and self-discipline. If we feel you have no application for the work, we will tell you so honestly. If, however, you are willing to try, we will give you every assistance. Slowness in assimilating new ideas is no problem - better that than too fast. A student makes his own pace, and we accept this... with an occasional push!

You are never too old. Our oldest member is now 81. Though our lowest age limit is 18, we will in some circumstances accept students at 16 always provided that we have their parent's approval in writing.

Our Attitude to Drugs

We have been asked to define our approach to drugs. No matter what the experimentalists say, we regard the taking of drugs as dangerous in the extreme. Combined with occult training, even more so. We will not consider the application of anyone taking hallucinogenic drugs (although, of course, this does not include diabetics, and people like them). It is drugs taken for so called "pleasure" that are dangerous. Drugs and Magic do not mix!


Please take your time in reading this Introduction to the SOL We want you to be quite sure that we are the School you are looking for before you commit yourself. We will be pleased to answer any questions you may have; and can recommend other Schools if you wish to look further.

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