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What is the SOL?
The Servants of the Light School of Occult Science is a modern Western Mystery School which teaches through correspondence. Our method of teaching utilises the language and symbolism of the Mystical Qabalah and we also teach ritual and ceremonial magic. Our school began as “The Helios Course” begun by Gareth Knight and John Hall as part of the work of their business The Helios Book Service in the early 1960s. Both men had been members of The Society of the Inner Light founded by Dion Fortune.
Gareth Knight and John Hall asked W.E. Butler (1898-1978) to further develop the course they began as the Director of Studies of the Helios Course. This work commenced with the blessing of Arthur Chichester who was the Warden of the Fraternity of the Inner Light at the time. W. E. Butler was a highly respected occultist, clairvoyant and author who was initially a pupil of Robert King (1869-1954) who worked as a psychic, spiritual medium, theosophical lecturer and early Liberal Catholic Church bishop. Butler was also a personal student of Dion Fortune and an initiated member of her Fraternity of the Inner Light from 1926 onwards.
Butler worked with senior supervisors Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki and her then-husband, Michael, who were also trained in the Society of the Inner Light and initiates of the Fraternity. Olive Ashcroft, Tom Oloman and Mariton Geikie were among the senior supervisors of the Helios Course that helped with early teaching and administration.
Butler developed the Helios Course, eventually writing 50 lessons, which became independent of the Helios Book Service in 1973 and which was renamed “The Servants of the Light Practical Course on the Mystical Qabalah” that was administrated by the Servants of the Light Association, founded in 1973 by W.E. Butler, the Nowicki’s, Tom Oloman, Olive Ashcroft and Mariton Geikie with the blessing of Gareth Knight and John Hall.
W. E. Butler trained his successor Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki who became the second Director of Studies of the school on October 31st 1976. Dolores expanded and developed the SOL school for many years and is also well known and loved as an author, lecturer and esoteric teacher.
Dolores trained her successor, Dr Steven G. Critchley for several years while he worked in SOL as her Assistant Director of Studies in SOL.
Steven became the third Director of Studies of the Servants of the Light School on June 11th, 2018, when Dolores retired as Director of Studies. Steven has a background in the Wiccan religion and is also an ordained Liberal Catholic Priest. It is noteworthy that W.E. Butler was also an ordained as a Liberal Catholic Priest, (ordained on 9th June 1956), and Dolores was also ordained as Liberal Catholic Priest so all three people that have headed the SOL have been ordained in the Liberal Catholic Tradition as well as working other traditions. Steven primarily works as an esoteric teacher besides being Director of Studies of the SOL. He is also regularly invited to work as a spiritual medium and psychic, in Spiritualist churches and centres, ministering in public services.
SOL is an esoteric teaching school that is now over 50 years old; we also have an international network of Lodges and practical study groups that work together employing ritual techniques and patterns. The Western Esoteric Tradition, in which we work, is a conglomerate of ancient and modern, or revivalist, traditions. Thus in the Western Esoteric Tradition there are streams of influence arising from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and the cultures that influenced their teachings such as the Chaldean (Babylonian), Assyrian etc… and there are also influences from the Pagan, Hebraic and Christian mystical teachings. Ancient Druidic, Celtic, Norse and Saxon influences can also be discerned.
Is the SOL some kind of sect or a church?
Absolutely not. We are a school. We teach through correspondence, and the school is organised as a loose structure precisely in order to avoid any sectarianism and to encourage independence and free thinking. We do not interfere in our members’ private lives or belief systems.
What are your aims?
The aim of Servants of the Light is to help in spreading the esoteric knowledge in an ethical way to all who want to receive it, regardless of religion, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, age, social status or financial situation.
What do you mean by 'magic' and 'esoteric sciences'?
Dion Fortune defined magic as “the art of changing consciousness at will”. Magic has been described as the Yoga of the West; Yoga simply means “union”. It has the same ultimate goal as the Eastern systems: that of service to, and ultimately union with, the Divine. Its methods are especially suited to Western students. The esoteric sciences are the tools that allow us to pursue this path of spiritual development. Some of these tools are meditation, contemplation and ritual. The meditative, contemplative and ritual techniques we teach are ‘scientific’ in that they follow a specific methodology that produces specific results. In our work it is consciousness and how consciousness shapes personal understanding of the self and how we experience living practically in the world in the light of the knowledge we receive that concerns us.
Is there a school building somewhere?
No. We are a correspondence school. All work can be undertaken in the student’s own home.
Isn't occultism black magic?
Magic and sorcery are not the same thing. The technology of magic is neutral. It is the intention of the operator which determines whether the magic is black or white. For this reason, occult schools have carefully screened their candidates throughout the ages. This school, as our name Servants of the Light implies, is concerned only with serving the forces of the Light. The aim of occult training is, ultimately, to enable the student to become a conscious collaborator with these high spiritual forces.
Are you affiliated with any other organisations?
SOL is not dependent on any other organisation. We do not involve ourselves, as an organisation, in any religious or political issues, so we do not promote one religion or philosophy above another, though our members are free to be members of whatever political or religious organisations they choose to be part of.
What is your attitude to organised religion?
There are many paths to the Light, and we respect them all. One of the first things an occultist has to learn is tolerance and understanding of other religions. We do not force any particular religious viewpoint on our students and there is no pressure to conform in any way. We consider ourselves fortunate to count Alchemists, Buddhists, Christians (including priests and nuns), Druids, Hermeticists, Hindus, Isis worshippers and other Neopagans, Shamans, Wiccans and other witches, and many others among our students.
How many members do you have?
Since 1964, first as the Helios Course and then from the early 1970’s as The Servants of the Light School, the SOL has taught over 6000 people in many different countries. Many of those who have trained with us in the past are still members of the school who work voluntarily as Supervisors. We also have a number of Lodges that are lead by Magi who began their work in the SOL as correspondence course students. Of course, we train many people who move on into different paths or fields of esoteric work and we are glad to have helped many along the way of their personal quests.
Are the courses available in any other languages?
Our Courses are written in English and we teach in the English language.
Why the Qabalah?
The Qabalah (this spelling usually designates the Hermetic Mystical interpretations of the earlier Hebraic systems), or Kabbalah (often used to designate the original Hebraic schools) as it is sometimes spelled, has been the foundation-stone of the Western Mystery tradition for several hundred years. It is a flexible system of relationships which allows us to comprehend abstract realities that otherwise would be beyond our reach. It is a powerful symbolic language and a system of cosmology, theology and psychology. The Tree of Life, its central symbol, has rightly been called “The mighty, all-encompassing glyph of the Universe and the Soul of Man”. The student will find, once the principles of the Qabalah have been understood, that all other systems, equally valid in their own right, can be explained in Qabalistic terms.
Do I have to believe in God?
Not necessarily, but a belief in some kind of a higher force or guiding power can be of great help. Atheists rarely feel the urge to do this kind of work, but we do have a number of agnostics in the school.
How much does membership cost?
There are no membership fees. The correspondence courses are funded by lesson fees, which are kept as low as possible. Lessons are currently £9.95 (approx US$18) each.
Do I have to meditate for hours on end?
No. Daily work is necessary for our training that can be tended to in manageable portions of time (usually under an hour a day).
Do I have to travel anywhere to follow your courses?
No. They are correspondence courses and are designed to be studied online from your own home. In fact, there is nowhere to travel to, since there is no physical school building!We offer workshops sometimes which you will be able to attend if you wish. Our teaching included practical training in ritual, theurgic, magic. We also have practical groups that meet where there are enough students called “study groups” or “Lodges.” All SOL Lodges are administrated by Magi who make local membership decisions and often offer their own Lodge training too.
Are your correspondence courses compatible with normal modern life?
Yes, you need to reserve 30-45 minutes each day (six days a week) to meditate and to read the lesson material.
Am I required to perform any rituals?
No. We do offer workshops in ritual magic. Contrary to what the popular press might say, ritual in its true form is not weird at all – it is simply a form of externalised meditation. Like meditation, it needs to be practised with insight and care.
Do I get a personal tutor?
We have supervisors and mentors that help students with their work at various times as arranged by the Director of Studies.
Am I free to leave the school whenever I wish?
Yes. You can leave the SOL at any point in your studies and for any reason, freely and without prejudice. You do not have to state your reasons for leaving. We will not try to stop you from leaving us, neither will we hang on to you in any way, since we recognize that each individual has his or her own path to follow. Should you find that our particular school is not what you are looking for, we will be happy to recommend other schools if you so wish.
However, if you wish to return after having left, certain rules will apply. If you were a beginner in your studies, you will be required to start at the beginning again. If you were further advanced in course work we will consult with you concerning a point of re-commencement.
How long will it take me to complete SOL training?
We offer several courses. For our core training, if you work every day without taking any time off, our courses will take you just over four years to complete. However, given things like holidays and vacations, the odd flu or cold, pregnancy etc, a more realistic time-frame is five years.
What? Four or five years?
Yes. It is a thorough course, and it will give results. Regard it as the equivalent of university studies.
Will it make me psychic?
It depends on what you mean by the word. All people have psychic or clairvoyant faculties, but some have them closer to the surface. Studies within a contacted Mystery school such as Servants of the Light will strengthen the links between the various levels of your being, and this in itself tends to bring these hidden faculties closer to the surface. The results vary greatly with each person. We do not guarantee that our students develop into fully-fledged psychics or clairvoyants. However, many do develop an increased awareness of the hidden levels of existence. Others may find it takes longer, and in some the psychic abilities are too deeply buried in the psyche.
I'm already psychic, how will it affect me?
This, too, varies with the individual. Some find that the psychic faculties seem to disappear for a time, which can be disconcerting. However, those who persevere with the training will find that the psychic faculties return in a more reliable and controlled form. Some, on the other hand, do not go through a “dry phase”, but instead experience a steady deepening of their psychic abilities. Yet others find it makes no difference at all.
What is the SOL's attitude toward drugs?
Drugs and magic do not mix, no matter what the experimentalists say! We regard the taking of illegal drugs or any other psychotropic or chemical substance for ‘recreation’ as dangerous in the extreme, and combined with occult training, this is even more applicable.
We will not consider the applications for deeper SOL work from anyone actively taking such drugs, though this does not apply to those taking drugs prescribed by proper medical authorities. Misuse of alcohol or any other substance that leads to physical imbalance or potential illness must also be reviewed when embarking on esoteric training as you will need to be in the best shape possible with lots of energy and stamina. The physical body earths as well as processes spiritual, mental and emotional stresses and tensions along with any physical substances that we take into our bodies. Therefore, taking care of health and general wellbeing is vital in esoteric work.
What if I suffer from depression or a diagnosed mental illness?
Esoteric training sometimes causes pressures mentally and emotionally that can become overwhelming if people cannot stay calm and react to pressure in a balanced and healthy way. Therefore we do not accept students who are medically diagnosed as being clinically depressed or who are receiving treatment from a psychiatrist or psychotherapist for clinically diagnosed mental illnesses.
We recognise that everyone struggles at times and many of us have periods of depression or suffer from stress and anxiety that often resolve in time as we change and adapt. However, no one should begin esoteric training that is currently depressed or going through a tough time with stress or anxiety management etc…
We ask that applicants are honest when applying to the School about these matters. We will consider taking students who have fully recovered from depression or other mental illnesses and who are no longer medicated. The mind affects the body and the body can influence the mind: we recommend that students pay attention to diet, partaking in physical exercise and adopting a generally healthy lifestyle that helps to enhance well-being and cope with stress.