The Sounds True Interview: Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and the
Western Mystery Tradition
The Western Mystery Tradition is a spiritual path that blends
meditation, ritual, and exploration of heightened states of consciousness.
Though it is built on the mystical wisdom of the ancient Egyptians,
Greeks, Celts, Hebrew Kabbalists, and many others, this tradition
is often misunderstood by modern spiritual seekers. Here, Dolores
Ashcroft-Nowicki—a third-generation occultist and founder/director
of the Servants of the Light school—discusses the authentic
practice of magic.
How does the magic of the Western Mystery Tradition differ from
what we see in the movies?
It differs quite considerably. I really prefer to call it the
“sacred science” rather than magic. The practice has
been described as “the art of changing levels of consciousness
at will.” It is the ability to flow with life’s changes—and
perhaps even more importantly, the ability to call or create change,
where, when, and if it is needed. Now, to do this, one must learn
when things need to be changed, and when they must be allowed
to change in their own good time. This is what the Western Mystery
teaches, along with the concentration, the focus, to create those
changes when they need to be created.
In Ursula Le Guin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea,
Ged, the young wizard in training, complains bitterly to his teacher
that he’s not stopping it when it rains, and he hasn’t
got anything to cover himself with. And he says “Can’t
you do it?” The wizard says “Yes, I can.” And
so Ged says “Well, why don’t you do it?” He
says, “I don’t need to do it. I don’t mind getting
wet. And the rain is good for the grass.”
And, you know, change is what magic is all about,
this ability to flow with life. But you have to have the knowledge,
you have to have training. Because you can have all the information
in the world, but it won’t become wisdom unless you understand
that knowledge on all levels of consciousness. And that is where
it differs from what you see in the movies. Because in the movies,
they just wave a hand, and the effects department creates the
magic. And that’s not how it works. There is no Disney magic.
There is no magical wand with a star on the end of it that will
create whatever you want at the time that you want it.
The magic is learning to be in the world and
adapt to what the world is offering you. The wisdom to know when
the opportunity comes along. The concentration and the focal ability
to be able to blast your will into the world when that opportunity
comes. Unfortunately, most people want magic like instant coffee.
Now, and with very little effort on their part. But, you know,
magic is like any other area of serious study. It takes time,
it takes effort, and it takes a good teacher. So it’s nothing
like what the movies tell you it is. It’s hard work.
So when you talk about hard work and commitment, I’m thinking
of something like saying to yourself: “Okay, so my practice
for the next ten years is going to involve training in these skills.”
Yes. That’s a commitment. If you want to become a doctor,
you make a commitment. If you want to become a priest, you make
a commitment. If you want to be a magician, then you have to make
a commitment. And you have to be prepared to work. Sometimes it
can be really boring. There were times, when I was training in
the beginning, when I would have loved to have opened the window
and thrown my books out. I realized, at last, that the foundation
work was the most important part of it. You can’t build
a house straight off the floor. You’ve got to have a foundation.
And then it will stay up for a hundred years if you’re lucky,
and if you’ve built it well. Magic’s the same.
And many people don’t—not these days
anyway—like to work hard. They pick up a book and it says
“You too could be a witch in twelve easy lessons,”
and you can’t! In twelve years, maybe. But you know it takes
eight to ten years to make an architect or a doctor. So magic
is just as complicated. That is what the Western Mystery teaches.
It teaches patience; it teaches focusing ability; it teaches concentration;
it gives you knowledge to know when the opportunity is there to
create change. You create your own magic, basically.
When I speak of change, it might be something
down-to-earth, like saying you’re going to learn a musical
instrument now to expand your horizons. Or it might be something
larger. Perhaps you had dreams when you were a child, and you
believe you saw the future in those dreams. It might have frightened
you. The change that the universe is offering might be to know
that now is the time to go back and look at that power you have
forgotten for so long.
you’ve done a practice like Buddhist meditation or yoga,
is there still a reason to take up Western magical training?
I go back to what Ernest Butler, my teacher, told me. He lived
in India for several years when he was in the army. What he learned
about how the Eastern mind works was that they are very concerned
with the spiritual, and very adept at opening up the spiritual
level. But they seem to forget that the physical part is just
as holy, and just as in need of lifting.
Now, the Kabbalah, in which I was basically trained,
teaches us that Makhut, the earthly part of us, is as holy as
Kheter, the spiritual part of us. In fact, one of the names of
Mahkut is Kala, the bride. And the Bride is seen as the feminine
part of Kheter.
You have this idea that the physical part of
a human being is just as important as the spiritual part, and
I think there is a tendency, with the Eastern way, to concentrate
too much on the spiritual and the getting away from the natural
Whereas with the Western Mysteries, we say everything
is holy. The whole life, from the physical to the astral to the
mental to the spiritual—it’s all holy. For students
who come to us trained in an Eastern way, we say that you know
about spirituality, you know about the different methods of meditation
and opening yourself. Now, let us show you how you can bring that
spirituality down, and use it to enlighten, to awaken, and to
lift the physical body. Because you can’t just leave it
There is a story in the Mahabharata that speaks
of Arjuna, the godlike archer, who is wandering the earth—his
brother has gone to paradise before him. And he has his little
dog with him. One day he suddenly thinks, "Yes, it’s
time. It’s time for me to leave the world." So he calls
up the heaven and Brahma sends down this golden ladder. Arjuna
picks up his dog, tucks him under his arm, and begins to climb.
Brahma says, “Excuse me, no dogs in here.” And Arjuna
climbs down and says, ”No. If my dog can’t come, I’m
In other words, if the lower part of life that
is my physical body can’t reach up to the spiritual world,
then I’m not going. And as he spoke, the dog stood up on
its hind legs and it became Krishna. And Krishna said, “I
have been your companion all these days, and now because you speak
up for the lower forms of life, then they too will have a path
to enter heaven.”
And this is what we’re saying, in the Servants
of the Light. We’re not saying that you’re wrong to
develop spiritually. We’re saying you do wonderfully well,
it’s beautiful, we can learn a lot from you by studying
your ways, but would you like to have a look at our ways as well?
If we can bring the two together, then we will really have accomplished
there an idea of enlightenment or awakening in magical practice?
True magical practice is all about light. The light of reason,
the light of knowledge, the light of compassion, the light of
an understanding of our place in the universe. It’s the
light of belief, in the ultimate divinity of life itself, in whatever
form it takes.
When we finally make it to the stars, hopefully,
we will be far beyond the ideas evangelizing what we may see as
the truth. It is devoutly to be hoped that by then the idea of
missionary work will be long gone. Because, you know, if there
is life out there in the stars, it will probably have its own,
and very valid, idea of a creator. It will have, in all probability,
a belief system. Now, just because that creator will have another
name and very possibly another form entirely, that doesn’t
make it something to be looked down on despised. There’s
been too much of that in the past.
In the Servants of the Light, we “awaken”
students slowly and carefully. Because it means they have to adjust
to new ideas and new ways of thinking about what they believe
in. We don’t take those beliefs away. We show them how to
stretch their spirituality to new horizons and understand their
beliefs on different levels.
Real teachers never take anything away from a
student. They just offer them a new way to look at things. That
is how to awaken the inner, the deeper, levels of understanding.
That’s how a school like the Servants of the Light works.
You can’t just take somebody in and say, “Right! Now
you’re in the Servants of the Light, you’ve got to
behave like this. You’ve got to believe in this. You can’t
do what you’ve been doing; ours is the only way.”
If you’re going to enlighten somebody, you enlighten them—what
happens is they wake up inside, they stretch their minds, they
stretch their spirituality, to take in new horizons. That’s
what teaching is. That’s what enlightenment is.
John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country
can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Now,
if you apply that thinking to magic, don’t ask what this
new way of thinking is going to give you; ask what you can bring
to it, and how you can pass that on to others. I know that sounds
a little bit odd and altruistic, but nevertheless, it is true.
It’s interesting … What you said about opening up
beliefs on different levels sounds very much like Ken Wilber’s
stage theory of enlightenment. It’s surprising to find that
kind of overlap in a tradition that many dismiss as superstition.
There are some people who are always going to look at magic in
that way, as a superstition. Magic—or sacred science, whatever
you want to call it—can and will happen, to, with, and around
you all the time. It doesn’t ask permission to exist. It
has always been there. It will always be there when you and I
are long gone. It helps to believe in it, but it’s not a
requirement. The sacred science—what is happening around
us all the time—doesn’t give two hoots whether you
believe in it as magic, as the sacred science, or whether you
believe it’s all superstition. It’s going to happen
If you think it’s all superstition, fine.
Who am I to tell you what to believe in? I happen to believe in
magic. I teach people how to believe in magic; I teach them how
to see how magical the world is around us. But if people want
to call it superstition and say it’s a load of codswallop,
that’s okay too. I don’t worry about them. The only
one who will lose out is the person who doesn’t believe
in magic. Somebody who thinks it’s all—shall we be
polite and call it “bovine excrement”?—people
who don’t believe in the magic of the world around them
are losing out on so much.
Do you have some advice on talking to people about magic who are
coming from a religious upbringing, who might have been taught
that it’s all about witchcraft and evil?
There are going to be some people who will always look at what
we call magic in that way. Sometimes you can give them access
in a way akin to Ariadne’s thread: get hold of this and
follow the thread, wind it up as you go, and eventually you’ll
end up with this big ball of wool. Hopefully, that will ultimately
lead to a realization.
I say to them, “Well, do you believe in
miracles?” And most religious believers do. And I’ll
say, "What else is a miracle but a piece of magic?"
When you look at magic, magic isn’t extraordinary.
It’s super-ordinary. When you create a circumstance in your
mind, and you create it and you craft it and you say, "This
is what I need, this is what I want, and I’m going to bring
this towards me," you are exercising your rights. We were
told in the Bible, “Ask and you shall receive.” That
When you look at the miracles that the master
Jesus worked during his lifetime, they were, in a sense, not magic—he
was using a knowledge that was far ahead of his time in many ways.
But, you know, four hundred years ago, if I had suddenly appeared
in London with something as simple as an ordinary electric torch,
I would have been cuffed into the nearest pillory and put in the
stocks or burned. Can you imagine playing a Beatles record in
the court of Queen Elizabeth the First? That’s something
else that would have given you hot feet.
Some would say that magic is the work of the
devil. But magic is simply science that we haven’t quite
yet comprehended. What you would think of as being magic now,
in two hundred years' time, is going to be commonplace. I looked
at my newspaper this morning, and it said that they’ve just
invented something that if you take half a dozen photographs,
in different positions, of the same thing, and put it through
this program it will give you a 3-D picture, one that you can
actually walk through. They say within a year this will be available.
Twenty years ago, would we have believed in that?
We’d say, "Is that magic or what?" My father was
born into a world in 1903, that had no airplanes, the odd car.
Yet before he died in 1994, he saw a man walk on the moon. When
he was a little boy, he would have said, “That would be
magical”. And it happened. Magic is relative. Miracles are
You wouldn’t say electricity is the work
of the devil just because three hundred, four hundred years ago
it would have been seen as magical. It isn’t magical anymore
because we’ve discovered so much about it. You’ve
got to look at things in this way—what you think of as being
magic is simply something that we don’t quite understand
very much about at the moment. Give it fifty years and we’ll
have it fixed. Try that approach.
does the education we’ve been given to doubt magic prevent
us from seeing magical events going on around us?
Oh, yes. Fifteen, sixteen years ago there was a lovely musical
called Flower Drum Song and there was a song in there that talked
about “A hundred thousand miracles are happening every day.”
Magic, miracles, are indeed happening every day all over the world.
As I’ve just said, we may call them coincidences. Or, if
we understand the concept, synchronicity.
A blade of grass growing through the tarmac of
a disused airfield is the magic of life, that will exist against
all odds. The first time a baby recognizes its mother’s
face and smiles, that’s magic. Life is, at that moment,
correlating features, scent, and emotion, into a single understandable
form that says “mother.”
Now, we’ve been taught that all this is
explainable by science. Explainable by people who insist on using
six-syllable words because they think it makes them sound better.
But if these scientists, and indeed ordinary people, look long
enough and hard enough, everything around us is magic. Everything
around us, in a sense, is an illusion.
I can explain to you why a rainbow splits into
seven colors. Or why the sky appears to be blue, when actually
it’s nothing of the kind. The fact is, the explanation will
only tell you how it appears to be like this. It doesn’t
tell you about the cosmic causation behind it. This is one of
the reasons why quantum physics is so interesting, because the
more you go into quantum physics—the deeper you get into
it—the more you realize that everything around you we are
creating from moment to moment to moment.
When you look at a picture on a computer screen
or when you look at your vegetable garden and you see that all
the vegetables are coming up and it’s beautiful, if you’re
walking on the beach and you see the waves crashing on the rocks,
your brain is telling you what to see. Basically, because all
that—everything that I mentioned—is a mass of vibration
at varying speeds in varying rates. It becomes something that
the brain gets hold of and thinks, “Ah yes, now I know this
vibration, I’ve come across it before.” And it looks
through its own encyclopedia and then says, “What you are
really seeing is a bunch of carrots coming up. And they’re
going to be really good carrots cause they look nice and healthy.”
Or it might tell you, “That in front of you, that movement
in front of you, is a flock of birds. That’s what I’m
telling you to see—a flock of birds in flight.” In
actual fact, they’re a bunch of molecules and vibrations
just moving together. Nothing around us is real; nothing around
us is what we think we're seeing. And that is pure magic.
One human being, who is a mass of vibrationary
molecules itself, is making all this up. It’s making up
a solar system; it’s making up a cosmos; it’s making
up everything around it, including itself. Now if that isn’t
magic, I don’t know what is.
the Western Mystery Tradition, and in Your Unseen Power, we hear
the term “Pathworking.” What is it for? Does it really
connect us to old gods or ancient myths?
which some people call guided meditations, are as old as humanity
itself. Every time you settle down in bed and think about what
you’re going to do tomorrow, you’re doing a very basic
Pathworking. Humanity was given two priceless gifts: imagination
and the ability to build images in the mind. Pathworking is about
training yourself to get the most out of these abilities.
We know through the study of quantum physics
that the entire cosmos is built on vibration, which breaks up
into things like sound and color and light. When we think, we
create images of what we are thinking. We may not know this, we
may not think about this, but we do that. In other words, thinking
and imaging uses the basic material of the universe. We build
things; we create out of the vibration of light, sound, and color.
We build these images inside our physical frame.
To this, we add a third gift, the all-important
emotion of human desire. Humans want to create; we’ve always
created things, all the way back to Paleolithic times. This is
the basis of every successful business, invention, book, painting,
or sculpture ever made. And also, it’s the basis of every
human being conceived and born. The imagination and the ability
to build images, the ability to perceive things inside our heads—it’s
all part of this vibration of the material of the universe.
Pathworking, as we use the term in the Western
Mystery Tradition, is how a trained mind creates new concepts
of the world around it. It can create these on other levels as
well. We can daydream in the astral. There, we can talk and speak
and walk with the ancient gods. We can visualize abstract concepts.
Then in the physical, we can create around us the mental locations
that we’ve built, like when we can build temples. I think
it was a philosopher called Anaximander, who lived in Miletus
in ancient Greece, who was the first one to define abstract thought.
Then there’s the spiritual part as well. We’ve got
these four—the physical, the astral, the mental, and the
spiritual. And not only that, there are spaces between those levels.
Dimensions that exist between them.
Now, Pathworking can, and does, create worlds,
images, events, life forms, concepts, even existences, in and
on all those levels that I mentioned. When an idea takes hold
of the human imagination, and it’s kept in focus for long
periods of time, the vibrations of which it is made become real
on another level, an inner level. If it is continually focused
on, it persists, and gradually, often over many centuries, it
will become more and more solid.
And then something happens—there’s
a war or some big upheaval, there’s an exodus, or a different
teacher comes along and changes the spiritual way of belief, and
suddenly less and less power is given to that creation. And it
begins to fade away. That is what has happened with things like
ancient Egypt and ancient Greece and so on. The people of those
times were equally as capable of using this creative imagination
that we’ve been gifted with. And they built up a whole concept
of things like the gods and deities, the great halls and places,
locations where the gods lived, all these things. And they believed
in them. And they gave them life, they created them, through the
imagination. So they became real because the emotion and the imagination
joined together to make these things absolutely real.
But after a long period of time—remember,
that lasted for about five thousand years, so it had plenty of
time to get really, really solid—but after a while, other
belief systems came in. Judeo-Christianity, the world of Islam,
the world of Buddhism, and then suddenly the old gods were just
that—old. And they faded. However, they only need a little
bit of effort, a little recognition of them, and they are back.
Because they never really fade away entirely.
Let me give you an example of that. I was with
a friend in Greece some years ago. We were at Olympia, and they
have a huge complex there of ruins, mainly of the Temple of Zeus.
Emily and I were walking through these ruins, and we came across
this beautiful old little placard that was chipped and weathered,
and it read: “This was the altar that was used in the temple
of Zeus.” We looked at each other and we thought, "Well,
it’s been a long time since he was given an offering on
his altar." So we collected a few bits of dry wood, put them
on the altar. We didn’t have any incense, so we sprinkled
a little bit of perfume from a bottle that Emily had in her bag.
And we set light to it, stood back and admired our little offering,
and sort of said, you know, “Hail, Zeus. Here’s something
to show you’re not forgotten.”
And out of a clear blue sky we got a clap of
thunder that nearly deafened us. We looked at each other and thought,
“Ah, yes, I think we’ll go now.” So we went
A little while later, we came past a smaller
shrine dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus. We passed it and I
thought, “Oh yes, that’s her altar.” We were
going past when there was another clap of thunder. All this is
on a sunny day. So we got the message. We went back, found some
more wood, poured the last of the perfume—and I might add
it was an expensive perfume—over that, and lit that. I mean,
after all, you can’t ignore the wife when you’ve just
given something to the husband. So we left a little offering on
both those altars.
Okay, so the thunder may have been a coincidence,
but I was always taught that coincidences are small acts of magic.
And as far as I was concerned, it was a little “Thank you.
Haven’t had one of those in a long, long time. Love, Zeus.”
At least you weren’t approached by an amorous swan.
Well, swans I can do without. But if it was a shower of gold,
I wouldn’t mind.
Pathworking can recreate the old myths and the
gods of ancient times, if we put imagination, visualization, and
emotion into these Pathworkings. And that will take us all the
way back. You can be quite certain the amount of emotion—joy,
happiness, and absolute “Wow!” factor—that went
into the making and creation of Star Trek and all its spin-offs
has created somewhere on the astral level that kind of world,
complete with starships, and Captain Kirks, and Spocks, and salt
monsters, and what-have-you.
a question I bet you get a lot. Should the new practitioner be
concerned about dark magic or dangers in the practice?
This one always gives me a giggle. No, not at all. The time to
worry is when you’ve been practicing for years and have
reached a stage where you’re visible to the entities that
we call The Lords of the Dark Face. I get more than my fair share
of letters, usually from new students, who write me ten-page correspondences
about how they spent their night times battling bravely against
the dark forces with their magical swords, and how exhausted they
are when they wake up, and quite frankly, they’ve been reading
too many second- and third-rate occult novels, or watching what
Hollywood regards as occult films.
It takes a lot of energy, hard work, and knowledge—acquired
by often quite unspeakable means—and deep soul-destroying
hatred to conjure up a real psychic attack. Now, when you take
all that into consideration, the target has to be worth that kind
of commitment. You’ve got to be a real threat to them. And
this is going to be very unlikely if you’ve been training
with any kind of magic order for three weeks. What would be the
advantage of spending time and energy and power on someone who’s
only just learned to draw a pentagram?
Now, if/when you’re on the way to initiation
or you’ve already been initiated, you might get the odd
annoying sequence of nightmares coming your way—not because
somebody’s got it in for you on the physical level, but
simply because as you become enlightened, you do light up on the
other levels. You begin to exude light in your subtle body. And
this attracts attention from stray bits of dark energy that are
floating around. But that’s all they are—stray bits
of energy—and they may give you the odd nightmare. Get up,
have a drop of hot milk or, better still, a good slug of whiskey,
and go back to bed again.
Believe me, when you’re really psychically
attacked, you will be in no possible doubt about it. And I speak
from experience. But, by that time, if you’re that much
of a threat to them, you will know enough to be able to protect
yourself and give as good as you get. Until then, just leave Hollywood
films and the Charmed girls all the things that the studios can
come up with. Just forget about it, enjoy it if you must, but
don’t take it too seriously.
I’d like to ask a refinement of that question. There is
a part in the course, where you talk about how it’s important
to create protective barriers when you’re in hotels when
you’re traveling, because they are sort of sinkholes for
negative energies. Now, what about protection from that kind of
If you’re talking about negative energy, the negative energy
that you find in hotels is the energy that is left behind by human
beings. There are more suicides in hotels than you can shake a
stick at. There are some pretty dodgy things going on in hotel
rooms. And, as I’ve said before in these questions, we are
made up of vibrating energy, and those energies can be absorbed
by walls—this is why houses get haunted. Emotion and the
imagination and the things that we do, the things that cause us
to vibrate with anger or to vibrate with lust or to vibrate with
any kind of idea of vengeance or something like that—it
flows outward; we become the center of a maelstrom of this kind
of energy. And it gets absorbed by the walls.
Now, somebody else comes along and stays in that
house or in that hotel room. if they're a sensitive type, then
they’re not going to be able to sleep, they’re going
to have bad dreams or they’re not going to be able to sleep
at all, or they might toss and turn, or they may simply feel unwell.
They may feel uncomfortable; they may feel they want to get out
of that place.
If you know enough to put a simple protection
around you, that will clear the space. It will release the energy.
And it will make the room clean and clear, not only for you, but
for the people who come after you.
But an attack by a magician who has taken the
dark path—remember that when they decide to go on that path,
they have to train even harder and with more energy and focus
than a white magician, because the entities to whom they give
allegiance do not forgive the slightest slip-up. When people become
black magicians, they have to be damned good. Unlike people who
are taught by the Lords of Light—when we do something wrong
in a ritual, they say “Well, that wasn’t too good.
Try it again.” When one who’s on a dark path makes
a slip-up, it’s curtains.
You’re looking at people who spend a lot
of time and energy, and they’re not going to give away that
time and energy and knowledge by creating some kind of miniature
hell for a third-week student who’s still wet behind the
magical ears. So what you’re protecting yourself against
mostly are the energies that other human beings have left behind.
I have to say that there are some human beings who leave some
pretty mucky vibrations behind. But otherwise, you know, don’t
worry about it. By the time you’ve got to the point where
they realize you could be a threat, you’ll be more than
a match for them.
are the greatest rewards and responsibilities that come with learning
Inner Balance. A true sense of your own worth, that owes nothing
to ego or false pride or pretension; it comes when you wake up
to your inner divinity. That isn’t to say that you’re
suddenly going to be able to walk on water. You will always, in
the work, walk on the edge of the sword, keeping a continual balance
between the two selves—your regular self and your divine
We learn through mistakes—that’s
the only way we can learn. No matter how far you go, and how high
your achievements, you will achieve what you learned by mistake.
You learn, and adjust, and go on. The main thing is to learn to
forgive yourself when you make a mistake, and say, “I have
learned through that. I will recognize that mistake when I make
it the third or fourth or fifth time.” On the sixth time,
you’ll get it right.
Responsibility. You will learn that you are just
one small particle of life in a vast ocean. But you will also
learn you’re not alone. You can make a difference, no matter
how small. And perhaps the greatest thing you will learn is it
is quite true; you are indeed your brother’s keeper. That
brother might be an intelligent crystal on a planet circling a
sun a million light-years away. Or it might be the puppy you just
bought. Or your next-door neighbor who plays drums into the early
hours of the morning. You are responsible in a deeply spiritual
way that, at the moment, you may not understand.
Magic. Sacred science. Call if what you will.
It can uplift you, teach you, awaken you, and bless you. It will
give you balance; it will give you harmony; it will teach you
to take responsibility for what and who you are.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, 2006