Exploring The Inner Realms
The Gnosis Interview
By Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
Jay Kinney, former editor of the regrettably defunct magazine
"Gnosis" has given permission to offer this interview
with Dolores to the SOL website. Please note, although the magazine
itself is no longer in circulation, back issues are available,
including the issue from which this interview was extracted. This
interview appeared in Gnosis issue 36, which you can order at
the Gnosis website.
Note from Dolores:
This interview took place many years ago and, obviously a few
things have changed...But overall what was said at the time remains
true today. Since then we have seen many Lodges raised within
the SOL and many of them will eventually go on to become schools
in their own right. This would have delighted Ernest. But a school
can only be as good as those working within it and much of that
work rests upon the shoulders of its supervisors. We have a team
of the very best, and the students they guide are the seeds that
go out into the world and keep the Light alive. Without the dedicated
help of such people no school can survive.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, author, lecturer, and instructor, is
a modern hierophant of the Western mystery tradition. As director
of studies for the Servants of the Light (SOL), she heads a fraternity
whose roots are firmly planted in the tradition of the Hermetic
Order of the Golden Dawn (by way of Dion Fortune's group, the
Society of the Inner Light). SOL is dedicated to occult study,
practice, and ritual. It gives instruction through the mails using
a system of supervisors.
Aschroft-Nowicki has written several books on occult subjects,
including First Steps in Ritual, Highways of the Mind, The Shining
Paths, Inner Landscapes, and The Ritual Magic Workbook. She's
also edited the collected writings and lectures of her teacher
W.E. (Ernest) Butler entitled Practical Magic and the Western
Butler (1898-1978) was a member of the Society of the Inner Light,
and out of his friendship with fellow-members Gareth Knight, John
Hall, and Ashcroft-Nowicki, SOL came into being. Butler's books
include Magic: Its Ritual Power and Purpose; The Magician: His
Training and Work; Magic and the Qabalah; and Lords of Light:
Teachings of the Ibis Fraternity.
Dion Fortune (1890-1946) was originally a member of the Christian
Mystic Lodge of the Theosophical Society and an initiate of the
Golden Dawn (Alpha & Omega). Author of The Mystical Qabalah
as well as several essay collections and occult novels and stories,
she provided a genuine curriculum for magic today.
These groups and individuals have all regarded magic as a spiritual
path rather than as an egotistical way of accruing power. They
also see it as a means for expanding consciousness and participating
in the greater reality of Spirit. This task has been known as
the Magnum Opus, in which each practitioner plays a small but
absolutely vital part. As Dion Fortune once said, "Any magician
worth his salt becomes, almost inevitably, a mystic."
Ashcroft-Nowicki lives with her husband Michael Nowicki on Jersey
in the British Channel Islands. This interview was conducted in
Seattle, Washington, in August 1994
Frank Donnola: What is your understanding of
the inner planes?
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki: People refer to the
inner planes, the inner worlds, by all sorts of different names.
The terms "levels" or "planes" is perhaps
a little misleading. Although I have used the term "inner
planes" because that's what people are used to, for myself
I tend to call them "dimensions." Using the term "inner
dimension" clarifies it more for me, it gives it less of
a woolly, open-ended, not quite defined quality. I find the word
"dimension" is more encapsulated, and suggests, to my
mind at least, a place, a situation, a location somewhere
that is crisp and clear and has well-defined areas. Let's say
the nearest plane to us is an astral plane. But it really is the
next dimension away from us, a dimension which has a peculiarity:
the matter of which it is made is loose and flowing, rather like
a river. One can pick it up and pour it into various receptacles
like thought-forms. If you go further, the next dimension or plane
is the mental, in which you don't need a form; all you need is
an idea of yourself, an idea of something abstract to which you
want to go or with which you want to interact. And then what happens
is on that mental plane, that mental call or energy pattern with
which you want to communicate is drawn towards you, or you are
drawn towards it. I don't think these dimensions or planes are
separate in that they proceed in a linear way. I think they all
exist in one space. There is some link here with science fiction
and fantasy, with their notions of parallel worlds. It's a very
interesting subject, and heaven knows there have been enough books
written about it. I think the term "inner planes" comes
from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Those were
the terms that were used then. We haven't gotten around to giving
them new titles yet, but it's certainly time we did.
Donnola: These dimensions are often presented as being distinct,
as a way, I suppose, of tuning into each one separately. But they
must be happening all together. Is moving through them a matter
of what has been called a higher rate of vibration?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: That is the way that I was taught, that it
was a matter of raising the vibrations of your particular energy
pattern to match those of the denizens of that particular world.
We tend to speak of the astral and other inner planes as being
inhabited only by ourselves when we are in an astral form, or
by astral shells. But I was taught that each of these layers of
beingness has its denizens, inhabitants that belong to that level.
Donnola: Like the flora and fauna of that kingdom.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Very much so. And I think one can find angelics
at their level and elementals on that level, and I have no doubt
that there are levels where less savory things can be found.
Donnola: Sometimes people talk of encountering demons or evil
spirits, and I wonder if it isn't similar to going to the bottom
of the ocean and finding scary-looking creatures there, but which
are only beings that inhabit that world.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: I have no doubt that in many cases this is
true, but I also think that people tend to describe themselves
as traveling on the astral which of course is inhabited only by
that person. And any demons in it are their own inner demons.
Donnola: So it's all their own thought-forms, built up over the
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, or sometimes even over several lifetimes.
You may bring all sorts of fears and phobias with you. I'm not
saying this is so in every case, but a lot of people, particularly
the sort that leap about on the so-called astral with their magical
swords, cutting up dragons and what have you - I really do think
that in many cases this is a question of being in their own inner
world and being afraid to face their own inner demons. And they
insist on carving them up, only to find that you can't do that;
the pieces just come back together again. It's not until you face
those inner monsters and absorb them and transmute them that they
actually vanish out of that inner world
Donnola: So merely killing them in a stereotyped hero-and-monster
fashion doesn't resolve the issue.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: It's like trying to cut off a little bit of
your astral; it will simply join itself up again. I think there
is a little too much of the Dungeons & Dragons attitude: people
getting loose on what they think of as the astral with their magical
sword. Very often it's a way of saying, "Look at me, aren't
I great! Things are actually trying to destroy me, so I must destroy
them first." It's a yell for recognition. We get a lot of
Donnola: Could you compare some of the different occult systems
describing how the inner planes work?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: For those who work in the kabbalistic system,
the inner world is very much represented by the Tree of Life and
the four worlds. For the Hermeticist in the Western tradition,
it's mainly to do with the elementals and elemental worlds (earth,
water, fire, and air) and the variations of those as they go through
the different levels. One gets to a point where the earth is more
than just an element: it can become a color or a sound or a taste
or a scent.
To the Wiccan, of course, things are expressed in a slightly
different way. Very often it goes along with the Hermetic tradition
in the sense that it touches on the elementals, but they often
touch it at the level of earth gnomes, water undines, air sylphs,
and fire salamanders, and they tend to work with nature spirits
in their native kingdoms. Everybody has a different idea.
I would say almost categorically there are as many astrals as
there are people believing in astrals, simply because we color
them with our own thoughts and our own ways. Even individuals
working in the same tradition see things differently.
We might take as a point the opening of a temple. The magus opens
first the east and then moves clockwise. Now for me, the east
opens great bronze doors, and through it comes Raphael. On one
side is Paralda, king of the sylphs, and Paralda to me is very
like one of Tolkien's elves: slightly pointed, very ascetic features,
long hair which blows continually in the wind, a cape, and so
forth. The choir of angels on the other side, or maybe one of
the Four Holy Creatures, the elementals themselves in front, and
behind maybe high mountains and a sense of a breeze blowing through
that has caught the scent of wild thyme and honey and fragrances.
But for my husband that's not so. It is a tall snowcapped mountain
with a kind of devic figure on it.
We also differ vastly when it comes to opening the earth. For
me, it's always an underground cave, stalactites and stalagmites,
and Uriel tends to be a dark cloaked figure, almost Hecate-like,
with a reversed sword. For my husband, it is an open field, with
flowers and poppies and a woman crowned with flowers.
So even in one temple, in one family, the astral vision differs
from person to person. But of course those landscapes are so elastic
that they blend, and each one can exist in the same space. So
you get twelve people in a room visualizing the opening of these
quarters, and what comes through comes in different ways, but
they all exist interdimensionally.
Donnola: I've wondered how much the differences between occult
systems is the personality of the teacher filtering it, and how
much of it is just the vastness of the inner worlds and their
ability to accommodate so much.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: I think there is a tendency to follow one's
teacher. Naturally enough, as I'm teaching people to open quarters,
I will say, "Now visualize this" and give them my version.
They may change that as they will later on, as they come into
their own power, or as they decide to take it on because it is
something they can accept.
On the other hand, equally right is your statement that maybe
it's so vast and so wide that anything goes. There is no boundary,
no edge, no way of binding the inner dimensions. You can't do
that: there isn't any edge to fall off. They all exist in the
same space, which one can actually see. On the few occasions when
you can hold one of the highest of the inner beings steady in
your mind, you can see little bits of them in different dimensions,
and they change. What appears to be a pair of winged feet on the
earth, or just slightly above the earth, just moving into the
astral, that's one level. But the rest of the legs up to where
the torso would begin are simply shifting colors. Above that it
may be a geometric shape, and above that a sound. And you're looking
at the same being in all those dimensions. They're just there
all at the same time, and what you're seeing, through a trick
of your mind, is a way of looking at things. You're seeing them
all together, but you're seeing little bits of them in each.
Donnola: It sounds like that composite being in Daniel's vision
whose different parts are composed of different metals.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Exactly. In fact, I'd lay my bottom dollar
this is what happened to Daniel. He was looking at a being through
all the different dimensions.
We simply cannot make a statement and say, "This is how
it is" because that's how it is for that person. For me,
for you, it looks different. Clairvoyants or clairsentients do
not see the same things in the same way, nor do they see it in
the same way as a person without those gifts.
The gift of sight on the inner levels is a very strange one.
There's a point at which "sight" as we know it at all
is simply a question of vibrations and energies. It's rather like
looking at the aurora borealis in some cases: great curtains of
color that ripple and move. And yet it's a being on one of the
Donnola: Probably the main thing about different occult systems
is that they're functional more than anything else, and visualizing
certain things in certain ways helps attune you to make contact
and work with them. Rather than it being an objective picture,
an absolute, a dogma.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: It's always difficult to pass on information;
we have to pass it on in the form of analogies and symbols and
pictures. Inevitably after a person goes through all the levels
of that school and comes out the other side trained, they will
begin to change their way of looking at things, no matter how
well they've been trained.
Each generation sees things and uses different symbols from the
one before it. What Ernest Butler used and saw, and the way he
described things, was of his generation. It's not of mine: I have
adapted and changed. This does not mean I have thrown out his
ideas. I have taken their essence and given them a new symbol,
given them a new way of being looked at. The essence doesn't change,
the image does. The perception of that essence changes.
And in a hundred years, with four generations, you get four very
different ways of looking at the same essence, the same truth,
whether that is an orthodox truth or an occult truth.
Donnola: So then it's more than just forms adapting with the
times, isn't it? It's finding new things, finding more there?
Donnola: The teachings grow as the generations go on?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: They do, and of course each generation sees
a little further, a little deeper.
Donnola: Because you're standing on the shoulders of the people
who went before you.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: A teacher is a rung on a ladder. You need to
be a support for the very ones you teach; they need to climb on
your shoulders to see further. Just as you did with your teacher.
Donnola: It's a human ladder.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: It's Jacob's ladder!
Donnola: I was interested in learning how you met Butler, in
your magical work with him and the Society of the Inner Light,
and how the SOL got started.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki: My husband Michael and I joined the
Inner Light in the early part of the '60s and went right through
their training program and eventually took initiation. During
that time we came into contact with Butler's books, and knowing
he was part of the Inner Light, we asked the then-Warden, Arthur
Chichester, if it would be possible to meet him. We got a rather
strange letter back saying that the connection between us was
so close that they thought it would be better for us to finish
the course and then meet him.
About this time, Ernest and Gareth Knight and John Hall had gotten
together to put something out called the Helios Course. Gareth
Knight wrote the first six lessons of that, and then he had an
opportunity to go into a really good place of work, and so he
turned the rest of the writing of the course over to Ernest.
The whole course was put out in '65 or '66. At this time we were
coming to the end of our stint of learning with the Inner Light,
and we applied for initiation, which is what one did in those
days, and this was granted. Ernest had started to attend some
of these meetings again. We wrote to him, and he said that he
would meet us at one particular seasonal meeting.
Afterwards we took him out to dinner, and it was very obvious
there was some close relationship that may have hung over from
a former existence. But the fact of the matter was we got on extremely
well and we formed a very close relationship at that time. A few
years later Ernest would ask us to become supervisors for the
In the very early '70s the Helios Course began to get more and
more popular, and it became very obvious that the Helios Book
Service, which was part of it, could not spare the time or the
personnel to deal with this incoming course work. So the suggestion
was made that the whole course get dropped. This upset Ernest
a great deal, because he wanted very much to keep on doing this.
So Michael and I gave him the money to buy back the copyright,
and then out of that came the Servants of the Light (SOL). The
name was Ernest's idea. It has the secondary title of Fraternitas
Slightly before this time, I had managed to make a contact with
the inner plane guide under whom Ernest had worked for many years.
Ernest had asked this being for confirmation that he would be
able to pass on his work and was told in due course that someone
would approach him and that they would bring with them the correct
name of the being. Also they would state unequivocally that they
had come to take over, and that is exactly what happened.
Donnola: Is there anything you can say about this inner plane
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Ernest had gone to Dion Fortune a few years
before her death and had said to her that he had had several visions
in which the Christ child appeared on the other side of a fast-flowing
river, and he had stretched out his arms to him. But Ernest was
unable to cross over and bring the child across. But out of the
mist on the other side was a jackal-headed god, Anubis, who lifted
the child onto his shoulder and took him across the water.
Donnola: Rather than St. Christopher.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, and halfway across the Christ child wore
the Horus head! This, and other things, decided Ernest that he
was being directed into service with one of the great messenger
gods, who we know do not die, as it were, with the age. They are
the ones that cross over from age to age, taking on different
names, guises, and forms, but still remaining the messenger gods,
the ones with a message for humanity.
Ernest went to Dion Fortune with this, and she said, "Yes,
this is a true vision," and gave him leave to establish a
small lodge outside the Inner Light, and to work with this being.
Now Ernest left the Inner Light for a while, though he was to
go back again eventually, and this contact became very real. This
being made itself so accessible to him that Ernest was able to
get a great deal of teaching across from one side to the other.
Years later, Michael and I used to meet Ernest in London or sometimes
Southampton - because he was very frail by now - and go up with
him on the train. We would give him lunch, then go on to the meeting
house for the ritual, and then see him back onto his train safely
later on. And this particular time we had gone to the top of a
place called Havistock Hill. There was an Indian restaurant at
the top which Ernest loved. We were sitting outside, having finished,
and I became aware that standing beside me was something that
couldn't be seen by anybody but me. I'd been used to this kind
of thing since childhood, so it didn't faze me too much, except
for the fact that it seemed overly Egyptian.
Donnola: Did you see it or sense it?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: At that time I was still an objective clairvoyant,
so I was seeing it, which was another bit that made it rather
scary. So I interrupted Ernest and said to him half-jokingly,
"What do you know about Anubis?" And he said to me,
"Why do you want to know?" And I said, "Well, I've
got this feeling that this is an area of my service." And
he used to smoke a pipe. It literally fell out of his mouth and
smashed on the ground, and he got very cross and said, "I
wish you wouldn't give me shocks like that!"
Anyway, he turned around and went on talking to Michael, and
after a few minutes we got up and started to make our way quite
slowly down the hill. This thing followed us, and it kept saying
"Give him this name; tell him this." And my immediate
reaction was, "Sling your hook, mate: I am not going to tell
an old man that as soon as you croak I'm in line for your job."
This was a man I held in the greatest respect.
So I hung out until we reached the bottom of the hill and turned
into the road we were headed for when this thing got really insistent,
so I stopped and said to Ernest, "I'm ever so sorry about
this, but I do have to tell you this because it's getting so imperative!"
And I gave him the name and I said, "I've been told to tell
you that when your time has reached its peak, I'm here to take
on your work, and I'm ever so sorry, but you know I don't mean
it the way it sounds." And he stopped and turned around and
said, "You took time coming!" and no more. And I thought,
"I've put my foot in it."
But on his way home, as the train pulled out he pushed his head
out the window and said, "And by the way, Dolores, you'll
be the new director of studies after me." And then sat back
again, and I stood there with my mouth on the platform thinking,
"I can't handle this."
And I got all the way to Jersey, and he rang me up and said,
"I meant what I said - think about it!" For two weeks
I used to go down to the beach and walk up and down in the evenings,
and always I'd be followed by this contact which would say to
me, "You will say yes," and I would say no.
Then finally, on a very special evening when there were both
lights in the sky, a new moon and the sun as well, and the sky
was the most wonderful color of turquoise and gold, I stood there
- and by now I'd gotten to the point where I was actually having
conversations with this thing. And I said, "Isn't it a pity?
In another few moments all this will have gone, the moment will
have passed." And it said to me, "No! Nothing ever passes,
it's all held in the mind of the One, and at any moment you can
reach back to it." And he said, "That is part of what
you will teach." I said, "I have nothing to teach, I
have not the expertise." He said, "You don't have to,
you only have to open your mouth. I will do the teaching. You
will say yes." And I rang Ernest up and said yes.
Donnola: Wasn't Chiron also a contact of Butler's?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: That was our pet name for Ernest. In fact it
was my daughter Tamara who named him that. We took the children
over to see him one day, and she stood there, all of nine years
old, in front of this man, and said to him "You remind me
of Chiron the centaur - he was a teacher as well." The name
totally delighted Ernest, and from that time on we always called
Michael and I took on the SOL. It was in a bit of a state, and
we began to build it slowly but surely. And we continued to do
this until 1975, when Ernest decided that it was getting too much.
By this time he'd had angina, he was very deaf, his diabetes was
acting up, and he had hardening of the arteries to the point where
eventually they took his leg off. He decided to retire, and, typically,
the first thing I knew about it was when somebody rang me up and
said, "Congratulations!" I asked what had I done and
they said, "You're the new director of studies. It's in a
letter Ernest just sent to me." Nobody told me; I was the
last to know. He'd decided that was it, he'd had enough, he needed
some time off. I think he knew his time was short.
This was a long time ago; he was 75 or 76, and two years after
that, in '78, on August 1, he died. Which is a wonderful time
for a great teacher to die, on the day of the sacrificed king
Lammas. They'd finally decided to take off the other leg, and
Ernest felt that he could cope with one leg and an artificial
one, but two legs, no. It was time to hand in the rest of the
Donnola: There is a book of transcribed lectures he gave addressed
to the Ibis Fraternity. Was that another organization he started
at the end?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: The Ibis Fraternity was started by one of our
supervisors from the Helios Course, who'd been my student: a very
able woman and great ritualist. She asked to leave and start out
her own group, which was the Ibis Fraternity.
After he retired from the SOL, Ernest said he would lecture to
the Ibis Fraternity and began to help them build it and put it
together. And those lectures were part of the teaching he was
to give. I think he felt that for the last few years of his life
he'd established the SOL, so he was now turning his attention
to a new and younger fraternity and starting that one on its way
Donnola: He was a real founder of many schools, then?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, and in many ways, because out of the Inner
Light has come a similar school in Greece, which was running very
well. And we hope other schools will eventually come out, because
that is what Ernest felt a good school should do: it should leave
children behind, as a man or a woman leaves children behind.
It's not a question of saying we've got the contact and nobody
else can have it. It's a question of passing it on and making
sure that it grows, that it puts down roots, and that those roots
Donnola: To spread the Light around as much as possible?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes! That's the way the Light grows. I have
no patience with schools who refuse to hand on what they have.
Although sometimes there's a good reason for it - when there's
a certain curriculum within the school designed for a certain
purpose. Rather like a withdrawn order in the Roman Catholic Church,
where they have a specific purpose, where the research they're
doing or the way in which they pray and visualize helps the inner,
subtle levels of the world and humanity. In those cases it may
have a right to be withdrawn. But from the Inner Light, many others
have come, not only ours.
Gareth Knight has put up several schools of different kinds.
Another one is called the London Group, which I believe is still
going on. The Ibis Fraternity is still working. So the thrust
that Dion Fortune started continues. Men and women have come after
and made their own schools and carry on her work, as Ernest did.
Donnola: I know in her writings, Dion Fortune often spoke about
bringing the old and formerly hidden knowledge to the fore.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: There's too much of this attitude of "I've
got the only piece of the truth and you're not going to have it."
We've seen this happening with the orthodox churches; it mustn't
be allowed to happen with the hidden knowledge. It was hidden
for a purpose, because the times in which it needed to be were
dangerous. But that is not so now.
Donnola: There's always something private in any esoteric school,
but so much of it can and should be brought out.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: All schools have or should have an Outer Court,
and through it comes what goes out to the people. And if they
are the right kind, they come seeking at the doors of the Inner
And that is the way it works! You have an Outer and Inner Court
and the Adytum. The knowledge first comes into the Adytum from
the inner levels. But as you know, you can fill something to capacity
and then it has to go somewhere. So the stuff that no longer needs
to be kept absolutely withdrawn goes into the Inner Court, which
it fills up. And that which is not needed in the Inner or does
not need be to kept secret moves into the Outer Court. So there
is this continual flow from the inner levels to the outer, and
that's the way it should be.
Donnola: Somebody has likened the old Golden Dawn to a seed pod:
periodically its internal tensions and troubles caused it to explode,
and then some of the people would go off and start up a new version
of it, a new branch; that this is a process that keeps happening.
And while it's quarrelsome and contentious on the surface, yet
there's a purely occult function to it, a purpose of simply expanding
outward, making schools available to more and more people.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: This is quite true. It is the tension within
the pod that causes it to split open, and the resulting explosion
scatters the seed. It's a perfect analogy. It's what happens to
any school worth its salt. Every now and then some kind of inner
turmoil occurs, and it goes to hell and back, seemingly. But if
the school's balanced, if it is well-rooted, it will survive that.
Perhaps it'll be a little smaller, but what comes out of it goes
on and expands.
It is the way of the world! Look at children: they boil out of
a family, they leave home, and all of a sudden a home which used
to be filled with children's voices is suddenly silent. And the
two people left in it look at each other and think, "Where
did they all go?" But the next generation comes along and
suddenly the house is full again, not only with returning children,
but with grandchildren as well. Occult schools are exactly the
Donnola: If I may change the subject here to Dion Fortune's system
of rays, each color being a different tradition with its own flavor,
its own slant and temperament. I remember your saying that Ernest
Butler was very much on the Violet Ray (the way of devotional
mysticism) with his involvement in the Liberal Catholic Church,
whereas you yourself were "pure Green Ray through and through,"
which is more the Pagan path, the earth mysteries.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: It's also the power ray, the creative ray.
The Violet Ray is very much of an establishing ray, the ray of
love. If something is founded on love, it has a good chance of
growing. If it's established on the Green Ray first, the chances
are it will only last one generation, because to grow on power
is not a good thing. You can establish something on a wisdom ray
and that will persist quite a long time. But it does need the
other two, love and power.
We were lucky. Butler established us on the Violet Ray, the love
ray. The second one after that, the power ray, the creative, spreads
the love out. Whoever comes after me will need to be Blue Ray,
the wisdom ray, to establish and consolidate. I'm hoping that
we will see three generations.
Donnola: Does the Blue Ray of wisdom get into things like Hermetics
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes. But it is also the consolidating ray.
It's the blue of Chesed on the Tree of Life. Chesed is organization.
I can make things grow, I can create things. But whoever comes
after me needs to establish that, make it firm, organize it.
Donnola: So a succession of directors whose approaches and orientations
are different doesn't disrupt the SOL? Whereas to stay on one
ray all the time would give you consistency, but -
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, you would get a surplus of whatever. With
too much love you get weakness, you get to a place where anything
and everything is allowed, because everyone must be allowed to
do exactly as they want, otherwise they will not feel loved. This
is not good in an occult sense, because the mysteries depend on
discipline. Discipline can be a nasty word these days, but it
is self-discipline that is encouraged. Discipline that is applied
externally is not half as good as if you are taught to apply discipline
Donnola: What I remember from Dion Fortune's writings is that
her idea was that people would eventually work all three rays,
and gradually, as the Inner Light developed, each person would
grow into all three equally. But people do tend to specialize
in one, don't they?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: They do. Speaking for myself, I have always
avoided the Violet Ray like the plague, thinking, "All this
overpleasant Christianity and love thy neighbor and what have
you." Green Ray people don't think like this. However, there
was a kind of gentle insistence that was building into this force,
and into this job that I took on. And much to my, I suppose the
word is dismay, I have found myself getting a little violet edge
around my Green Ray.
People who have been working on this for a long time will have
what is almost a braid of the three. You will have one predominant
one, your basic ray, and if you work intensely, then the other
two will color the edge and invade it a little.
So willy-nilly I've acquired a little of the Blue Ray, because
I've had to learn organization to a certain extent. I'm not very
good at it; the Green Ray is seldom good at organization. I've
had to allow the Violet Ray into my life, because that is what
I've inherited from Ernest. To the extent that two years ago I
took ordination from a bishop in the Liberal Catholic Church,
because, as he pointed out, I was not keeping to my promise of
bridging the traditions: I was leaving one out!
Donnola: The SOL also calls itself the Fraternitas Alexandrae.
I've always felt a strong connection with that ancient city since
I was a kid - the library, the light-house, Heron's early steam
engine. And now the Egyptian government has announced it is going
to build a modern version of the Great Library. Could you say
something about the meaning of Alexandria and its place in the
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Tradition holds that the basis of the library
at Alexandria was the one at Heliopolis (which is Greek for "city
of the sun") or Onnu, the great Egyptian center of learning
and initiation. When Alexander created his city by the sea, books
and scrolls and even priests were brought over from Heliopolis
to become teachers in Alexandria.
There's no doubt that over the centuries the idea of Alexandria
has caught the imagination, the heart and mind of humanity. In
fact you could say it became the first Shangri-la. It was the
place where wisdom was started and where teachers talked without
fear or favor. Where the Druid walked with the Viking sage, and
where men from far Cathay taught the secrets of acupuncture, perhaps,
to the Therapeutae of Egypt. Where knowledge was shared, where
anybody, so long as they were willing to learn and accept discipline,
could come and be taught, and eventually teach.
It has provided a kind of template for temples of learning since
that time. And I think that the burning of the great libraries,
any of them (there were others that were burned - Carthage and
Persepolis - many others), the burning of books, is a crime. The
destruction of knowledge is always a point of danger.
When Alexandria was lost to us, we lost more than just books.
We lost knowledge, yes, but we lost a dream. And there have been
many people trying to recapture that dream.
That secondary name of the SOL was taken because for one thing
our founder taught us that we were, as a school, pendant to the
school of Alexandria. In other words we came down in that tradition.
Not necessarily meaning we have apostolic succession all the way
down, in the physical sense. But we had that mental line: that
is where our inspiration comes from. That is the place in time
we look to for this wonderful tradition, where everything came
It's why our main task is to bridge the traditions. We started
out merely as a kabbalistic school. We have made connections with
other traditions, so we now work in Egyptian or Celtic or Greek
or kabbalistic or whatever traditions.
Donnola: I recall you brought most of those together in an early
book, First Steps in Ritual, where there was one ritual based
on each of these several traditions.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, that's right. That book is being enlarged
and reissued, and I hope to bring other traditions into it. Alexandria
was and still is an ideal, for this and future generations to
look up to.
If the Egyptians really are going to "rebuild Alexandria,"
I would be the first to applaud that. However, knowing the area
and the difficulties that would be faced with that sort of enterprise,
I would certainly not hold my breath that it would be happening
in my lifetime. But I really do, hand on heart, hope that it will
But for us in the school, Alexandria remains the goal in time
and space. We teach, and believe, that on the inner dimensions
it is still there and that material and knowledge can be recovered
Donnola: In the same way that the Rosicrucians had their temple
not built with hands, which they would visit once a year on the
inner planes. You mean that likewise the museum and library still
exist for us somewhere as the storehouse of knowledge and power?
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes, I really see that and I really believe
in it. I think all great ideas that embody the best in humanity
take their place in the inner dimensions and remain there, no
matter what happens to the physical.
Donnola: The Invisible College.
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Exactly. And that of course is a tradition
far older than we know. It must have been a wonderful sight to
see, coming in from the Mediterranean to this beautiful city of
white stone. Equally I do sometimes wonder what happened to Heliopolis.
There must have been a time when the last temple was closed for
the last time, and the last priest or priestess left it, and perhaps
simply walked away. A very poignant sort of vision, I think.
And yet Alexandria kept it going, whatever "it" was.
But of course, you also get greed and misapprehension and the
misuse of knowledge and power. You get the desire to destroy simply
because you can, and it goes. However, in my more optimistic moments,
I wonder: if Alexandria and her teachers were so learned, surely
they must have foreseen what would happen.
Donnola: And put something aside, to hide and protect for future
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Yes. Remember they had a great tradition for
copying. Anything that was written and came into the city was
copied. And I can't help thinking that somewhere, somehow, most
or part of this has been saved in some form.
Donnola: Perhaps that was a source for the Arab culture, helping
it thrive during Europe's Dark Ages, keeping a lot of the old
wisdom and knowledge alive there while they were lost in Western
Ashcroft-Nowicki: Indeed, and that is more than possible. The
Kabbalah suddenly appeared in Spain in the Moorish period. So
that possibly is where it has come from; maybe it is all a remnant
of Alexandria, suddenly reappearing. And if that can reappear,
surely others can, I hope.
Frank Donnola is a poet and student of the mysteries living
in San Francisco. He wrote "Reconciling One and Many"
for GNOSIS #28.
For more information, contact Servants of the Light, P.O.
Box 215, St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, U.K.
Copyright 1995 Gnosis Magazine
Used with Permission