In the early years of this century there emerged from the Society of the Golden Dawn a woman destined to become one of the most famous and accomplished magicians of her time. Her name was Violet Mary Firth (1890-1946), later to be known as Dion Fortune. Taking what she had been taught in the Golden Dawn, and melding it to her own deeply Celtic soul with its memories of the Drowned Lands of Atlantis, she built around herself a school, still living today, the Society of Inner Light. She said to those who asked to know how to discern the best Mystery School in which to enroll, ‘Look at the men and women who come out from its door: they are living proof of that school’s ideals and principles’.
From the Society of Inner Light came many highly trained occultists and magicians, mystics and sensitives, some to be famous, others to exercise and teach their craft in near secrecy. Dr. Penry-Evans, Dion Fortune’s husband; Colonel C R F Seymour, a uniquely talented magician and a High Priest of rare ability; Christine Hartley, Seymour’s Priestess and Seer; Margaret Lumley-Brown, unknown outside the Society of Inner Light, yet one of the first Cosmic Mediators of this century; W G Gray; Gareth Knight; and the man who cycled from Southampton to Glastonbury one summer’s day and became one of her right-hand men – W E Butler. She greeted him with the words, ‘I’ve been waiting for you’, and presented him with a rose from her garden. He had been told in India some months before to ‘go to the sacred hill, to the Lady with the Roses’.
W E Butler, noted for his highly readable books on magical training, had worked with his his own Inner Level contact and teacher since the days when he worked with his first teacher the Liberal Catholic Church Bishop, Robert King (1869-1954) who was also a psychic medium of repute. With Dion Fortune’s permission he set up a satellite Lodge of the Society of the Inner Light in the Guildford area during the years preceding the Second World War. The Lodge disbanded at the time of WWII. Following Dion Fortune’s death on January 8th 1946 W.E. Butler remained a member of the Society of the Inner Light but worked mostly in the outer circle of the group. He had been most active as one of the teachers and organisers in the Inner Light in the 1930s. In the early 1960s Ernest was approached by Gareth Knight and John Hall of the Helios Book Service to help develop a correspondence course called The Helios Course in the Practical Qabalah, of which six preliminary lessons had been written by Gareth Knight. Butler wrote the remaining 44 lessons of the Course in alignment with the guidance of his Inner Teacher that he had worked with for many years.
In 1972 Gareth Knight bowed out and the simple correspondence course became Servants of the Light School of Occult Science under the Directorship of W E Butler. A group of five supervisors became the core of the Group under W.E. Butler’s guidance as Director of Studies, they included: Tom Oloman, Olive Ashcroft, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and her then-husband, Michael, and Mariton Geikie. Dolores and Michael had trained in the Society of Inner Light in the 1960s and taken Initiation there some years before. Now under the guidance of W E Butler they set about the building of a true School of the Mysteries.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki led the SOL school as Director of Studies from Samhain 1976, when W.E. Butler retired some two years before his death at Lamas (August 1st) in 1978, until 11th June 2018 when she retired and handed over the leadership of the SOL to her successor, Dr. Steven Critchley.
The SOL is now in its third phase of work under Steven’s direction.