The Fellowship of Isis has just celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding with a weekend of talks, rituals and celebrations at its centre at Huntington Castle, Clonegall, Ireland. We celebrated the Spring Equinox in the Fellowship’s temple in the basement of the castle, we held a ritual to inaugurate a grove of native Irish oaks planted on Ticky’s Island in the grounds, and we watched Logicreality’s film of a year in the life of Olivia Roberston. Caitlin Matthews gave the first talk on Saturday, which she is publishing on her blog, and Vivienne Crowley gave the last talk (about Black Madonnas) on Sunday afternoon. I gave the talk on Sunday morning, which you can find below together with an audio of the actual event, in which I go somewhat ‘off-script’… Photos of that wonderful weekend are sprinkled about…
TALK FOR THE FELLOWSHIP OF ISIS 40th ANNIVERSARY AT HUNTINGTON CASTLE, CLONEGAL, EIRE 20th March 2016
THE GREATEST OF GIFTS
There’s a wonderful scene in the film about Olivia that we’re going to watch this afternoon in which she says “People think that when you’re dead you wander around like a piece of fluff.” “Not in the least!” she cries!
I think we all here probably feel the same way – and we don’t believe that Olivia, and Derry and Poppy are flitting about like pieces of fluff, but are firmly present wherever they are, whatever they are doing.
And I suspect at this moment what they are doing is likely to be keeping an eye on us here – overlighting our gathering, wishing us well, sending us love and blessings and inspiration, ensuring that the Fellowship continues to be an organisation which is contacted, to use an occult term I probably first learnt from Olivia.
Where are they? Does anyone have a sense of where they are? I don’t know, I’m not psychic. Olivia, Poppy, Derry, where are you? Ah there you are! Thank you for your presence, thank you for the inspiration and gifts you have given us all. Without what you started 40 years ago, we wouldn’t all be here now.
And I can see Olivia saying: ‘Thank you Philip – that’s enough. Get on with your talk now!”
I was lucky enough to live at the castle for about 9 months in 1971 – five years before the Fellowship was founded. So I thought it would be interesting for me to explore with you how things were at that time, to look at what the ingredients were in the cauldron that was starting to bubble – and that would eventually produce the Fellowship.
I was 19 – I had dropped out of University, and here I was, accepting an invitation to live at the Huntington Castle Centre for Meditation & Study, as it was called then.
Straight away I found myself in a totally different world to the everyday ‘outside’ one I was used to. It wasn’t just eccentric – it was revolutionary, in the sense that everything here was turned upside down. What the outside world considered important was considered of little interest and vice versa.
There was a warmth, an acceptance here – and a great sense of fun – an amused view of the world that came from a certain detachment, a refusal to play the game of concensus reality – a refusal to fall under the spell of the collective trance. What does that mean? The ‘outside world’ places Economics, Politics and Science at the centre of its worldview. But at the castle, the priorities were entirely different, that triad was hardly considered… I can’t remember any conversations about politics, or the news. There was no television, there were no newspapers. We were in a world so different that the following story becomes believable:
A few years after I left the castle, Mick Jagger paid a visit. As Olivia was showing him around the temple, she asked “And what do you do, Mr Jagger?” “I make music,” he replied. “And have you had any success with this?” was Olivia’s apparently innocent response. It must have been so refreshing for him to hear this. He smiled and said, “Yes, I’ve been quite successful.” A slight caveat: knowing Olivia’s ability to be mischievously humorous, it’s also quite possible that she knew exactly who he was, and was simply entertaining him.
But whether or not Olivia secretly knew who he was, the usual criteria of fame and fortune held little sway here. And Economics had no part to play at all – much to the exasperation of poor David, who as heir, clearly worried about how the whole show could keep on the road. And as for Science. Bah! It was so clearly topsy turvy in its thinking, because it never considered prime causes which by definition were spiritual and not material. How, I can hear Olivia saying, can you purport to be scientific when you deal with only one plane, when there are at least seven to consider?
In fact she, or perhaps Derry, invented a counterpart to one of Science’s cherished principles – that of ‘Occam’s razor’, which tells us to favour the simplest and most logical explanation for any phenomenon. This was a very dull approach: ‘Always choose the most esoteric, the most fanciful and exotic explanation,’ Olivia declared. If a door dramatically swings open, seemingly of its own volition, a sudden breeze is the least likely cause, a ghost eager to join our company is the far more likely explanation according to this wonderful rule for life.
So what did this mean in practice? More colour, more laughter.
If the triad of Science, Politics and Economics was scarcely considered, what was the focus of attention? Another triad – a favourite of Olivia’s – the Platonic one of the three virtues – The Beautiful, the True, and the Good, which meant the concerns here were for the Humanities – for Philosophy & Religion, for Art, Culture, Literature – and when it came to Goodness, for being warm and generous. In other words it was all about cultivating the virtues.
Now that sounds very neat – The Huntington Castle Centre For Meditation & Study was a spiritual school with a focus on the Humanities, but of course it wasn’t like that. What happened was much more organic, flowing, messy, undefined. It was there in Poppy’s, Derry’s, and Olivia’s minds, but it wasn’t expressed in a curriculum or explained anywhere, although the Platonic triad does make its way into being included amongst the key principles of the Fellowship.
The basic stance – from which everything else flowed – came from the shared Philosophy or worldview of the founders, which was Idealist as opposed to Materialist. From this point of view, the physical world – the castle we were bumbling about in – was a precipitate of Divine Mind – a projection of consciousness. It was not the hard solid reality that most people mistook it for. Consciousness was not the byproduct of a bit of fizzing between neurons in the brain, it was the foundation, the field, into which consciousness itself choose to create what we call physical reality.
This is an idea all of us who think of ourselves as spiritual probably believe, but at the castle this perspective felt so utterly tangible it seemed as if at any moment everything might dissolve all around us. If the deva or god responsible for dreaming us all into the valley here decided to roll over and go to sleep, or got bored, we’d find it all disappearing in a puff of smoke and we’d wake up in – god knows where – Dublin or London.
What was this feeling? I’ve only felt it so strongly in one other place – in a particular house in Brocéliande in Brittany. I think its something that is found only in very special places – perhaps a geomancer can tell us more – but undoubtedly whatever naturally emanates here was enhanced, potentised even, by the founders’ absolute faith in it.
So the primary stance here was the spiritual, but as we know, spiritual positions come in all shades of colour. So what sort of spiritual perspective was being taken? I would say it was one that was Universalist, Eclectic, Liberal, that stood consciously in the stream of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition – and by that I mean not just of the Western Mystery Tradition, but of the World Wide Wisdom Tradition – as the Fellowship literature proves – drawing as it does on sources eastern and western.
And then in to that fantastic, stable philosophical and spiritual position of Universalism drawing upon the Perennial Wisdom Tradition, comes the inspiration of the Goddess – the call to reawaken to the Divine Feminine that Derry heard so strongly he felt obliged to remove all references to the male god with a small scalpel in the castle library.
So this was the field that was set up – this was the worldview, the philosophy that guided the thoughts, decisions, and conversations that took place at the castle.
This was the perspective that created the sense of joy and fun that was pervasive, the perspective that enabled us to laugh at the absurdities of life – to say effectively ‘whatever’, because it brings with it the ability to have a certain detachment or disidentification from those things the outside world foolishly believes to be real.
All this served the goal of the virtue of Truth in our Platonic triad.
Where was the Beauty? Well in the physical surroundings of course. I remember revelling in the smell of the wisteria in the summer, walking by the river amongst the bluebells, hopelessly in love with a whole family, a whole landscape, a whole house. A love affair I have yet to recover from, for who – after spending an idyllic summer here – could be fully contented with living in a humbler dwelling, however comfortable?
And there was beauty to be found in another way too – which was Olivia’s forte. It was her determined belief in the power of the imagination, her encouragement to express one’s creativity free of all doubt and judgement and criticism, that was infectious.
But it’s important to know that this characteristic wasn’t just confined to Olivia being encouraging to others and wonderfully productive herself. She also developed a particular technique for accessing the inner world of the imagination – the astral plane. She had developed a method that involved ritual, energy channelling, trance induction and guidance that was quite extraordinary and which she trained me in – here and in London after I left the castle.
Olivia first introduced me to her method in September 1970 – on my first or second visit to the castle – and she guided me on these astral journeys for five consecutive nights. It was after I had gone through these, that Poppy asked me if I’d like to stay at the castle, and I agreed, went back to Sussex to collect my bags and drop out of university, returning early the following year.
When Olivia arrived in the Spring of 71, I had another series of sessions with her and then in June she taught me the method, and we then swapped roles.
At the time of the summer solstice, Olivia took a series of seven journeys – every day for four consecutive evenings from the 20th of June, and then again on the 27th and 29th June and the1st of July.
Let me read you some extracts from her notes:
After the first session she wrote: I was surprised- as this was my first time reporting as percipient – at the power of the whole method. My face felt stiff, jaws hard to move – voice felt remote and strange. There was no time to think, as one had to report back at once to the operator, so all had to be spontaneous – no time for daydreaming or the creation of fantasy. When the actual message came, I had an almost, yes, unpleasant pressure at the back of the head that I have not experienced before. I felt I was being overshadowed by a Being. It was almost too strong for me. The experience stopped abruptly as I had certainly enough. I was struck by the beauty of the words of the ritual.
The message she referred to, and others which she received, were obtained from conversations with Otherworldly beings. Let me give you an example of one of these, from the second session we conducted on the 21st June. After travelling to a terrifyingly big pyramid and encountering various beings, she finds herself wearing a green robe sitting on a mountain with the feel of Tibet. She recognises a figure she calls The Tibetan.
I ask her what is his message. She replies: “I think he once taught me brushwork. He says: “All Nature bears the Divine Signature. I have told you that forms on one level are the symbols for the higher. Whatever you see is a living witness to its own higher self. The personality is the hieroglyph of our own true being. Everything is a living language of the Gods. All that is distorted is only the reflection, on troubled waters, of inner perfection. The moon shines in full perfection in its reflected beauty. In the turbulent waters of a disturbed lake it shows a broken image. Which is the reality? We on earth are blind to the sky, when we gaze down at shadows, our back to the light. We take the distortion as the real, and hold the real to be a delusion. We can forever attempt to disentangle, to alter, to measure the shadows, yet even as we look, they shift and change, and we are trapped by illusion. Turn then, my children, to the ineffable beauty of God, which you know already within yourselves, not as a reflection, but as your life.”
The next evening, on the 22nd June, as Olivia was gazing at an eagle in the realm she had entered, I asked her “How may we best serve?” She replied: “To bring Light.” I ask who is telling us this. She says: “Helios – many names. she says many names. We are to kindle dying fires anew in the hearts of men and women. We are to help the minds of men and women to receive true light: insight for minds now so often deadened by mechanical habit. We must be light bringers. I see the image of a flaming torch.”
“How can we do this?” I ask Olivia. She says, “I am tuning into Dana, who says: “To awaken the sleepers as we are already doing. However, the sun needs to be tempered with the veil, the cool waters of the understanding: the Fire of love in activity by the feminine aspect of Divinity. This understanding gives us intuition as to individual need.” I have a glimpse of corn. I see mountains. I’m coming down.”
After the session of the following night, 23 June, Olivia notes: “I should like to emphasise that all these reports for these sessions are impressions. I have at odd times, never when I have tried to, received direct psychic vision and hearing, even when I have been physically conscious, eyes open. Also I have, again always unexpectedly, received psychic experiences out of the body. The degree of reality of such experiences is completely different. Nonetheless during these sessions I believe I have been partly projected, and have felt strong ‘life-flow’. When I have received words and thoughts, I have felt this curious pressure at the back of my skull which I have never had before. The level of reality is much the same as in my daily meditations. I seem happiest on the mental plane. I have some years ago had very brilliant sharp colours of great beauty, but not during the last year or so. But ‘Vril’ is very strong with me. To be accurate, these sessions are stronger than my experiences during meditation – as strong as I can take.”
And now, an excerpt from the penultimate session of that summer, in which Olivia receives information about the location here: “There is an etheric sea here, buried beneath this, as you have been told, is power magnetised in rock and earth. So are the holy hidden power centres of the Tuatha de Danaan only opened when the time is due for their renewed use. So it is with this centre since 1946. ‘There are certain lines of force connecting this place, Glastonbury and Sligo.’ I see the sign of the six pointed star, The star of David, over Ireland. We are interconnected also with Brittany. I see the diamond shape – four centres. This is primarily a receptive centre, the cult of the goddess. I need not be critical of this, it will be balanced from outside, by a predominantly positive centre, possibly in the west of Ireland.”
I ask Olivia for more on the Glastonbury link. She replies; “There is an etheric lake there, where once was the sea of Avalon. This is polarised by the power centre of the Tor. So it is with this centre, for each centre has its inner polarity – balanced force. Our rath, where the Protestant church stands – the druid burial-ground, said to be the oldest in Europe, is the positive balance to our own place.”
Finally, in the last session of that series, the seventh, she receives an eloquent message from someone she calls The Architect, having heard the name Christopher Wren earlier:
“Harmony depends on proportion, whether it is of music, speech or design. The faculty of man brings through this intimate knowledge, which is locked within the proportion of his own body – as in the Cosmos at large. As is the greater, so is the lesser – in proportion. The microcosm reflects in miniature the macrocosm. So, in the matter of proportion, the Divine Signature is clearly seen. In this respect all is created in God’s image – all reflects, in due proportion and scale, this underlying harmony – the perfect modulation of part to whole, springing from Unity, yet by harmonious adjustment suited to particular place and purpose. This harmony is not to be marked out only by the measuring rod of classification, but by knowledge of the innate beauty that is the product of love. And, as I, Olivia, have understood from the myth of Psyche, Cupid & Psyche, Soul and Love, brought forth as child Harmonia. Without this true knowledge, no work of art, no building, has that authority given it by the Creator. For no work of art, whether in stone, wood or paint, can exist in living beauty without divine influx. That which is not in attunement with the divine proportion perishes, as it is not truly real.”
And so this last excerpt about Harmony ties together rather beautifully two aspects of the Platonic Triad I mentioned at the beginning – Truth and Beauty. But what about the third virtue: goodness?
How was that encouraged? And this is where we come, I think to the most important gift of all. So intangible, so hard to convey. But I think this is why my time at the castle was so life-changing, why those nine months that I spent here became for me one of the most significant times in my life, which I will always treasure and always be grateful for.
And I think that’s because, in the final analysis, what was going on here – the gift that was being given – was the work of Love – Divine and Human.
I believe that Poppy, Derry and Olivia were quite simply motivated by Love – Unconditional Love – which manifested as an immense generosity, and which resulted in what we see around us today – a flourishing, colourful, creative movement informed by the search for those three virtues of Goodness, Truth & Beauty.
Long may the Fellowship of Isis flourish and grow, blessed by the originality and genius of its founders, nourished now by the love and goodwill of all its members, and by the common sense and inspiration of those who are its guides and guardians.
Read a report on the weekend by Dorn Simon-Sinnott
See a short film by Irish TV RTE featuring two of the FOI founders