Darryl Sloan on Skylight Press

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It has been a while since we presented a new author to the wider public so it is a great thrill and privilege to introduce Darryl Sloan –  an author, musician, technician, and all around thespian who has developed quite a following in the YouTube vlogging community with a profound and provocative channel. He has written and published two novels, Ulterior (2002) and Chion (2007), as well as two non-fiction works, Reality Check (2009) and the original edition of I, Universe (2012), which was given the inciting tag-line – ‘Demolishing and Rebuilding Spirituality for a Scientific Age.’  Skylight Press will be publishing an all new and greatly expanded edition of I, Universe in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, here is Darryl in his own words:

I was born in 1972 in Northern Ireland and grew up during the Troubles. In spite of the tensions between the Protestant and Catholic communities (which occasionally erupted into murders and bombings), I felt that I had a good childhood, full of fun and creativity. The province’s tribalism never infected me in the slightest. Although fate branded me a Protestant by accident of birth, I always considered myself an outside observer of the madness.

As a child of the seventies and eighties, I was privileged to be present for the birth of the home computer, the synthesizer keyboard, and the portable camcorder – technologies that fuelled my creativity and became abiding passions. An interest in writing fiction also emerged in my mid-teens. Some of my creative accomplishments in later years include composing music for commercial computer games, writing and publishing two science fiction novels and a computer programming guidebook, co-producing micro-budget horror movies, teaching filmmaking and computer programming to young teens.

Christianity played a huge part in my life from age seventeen, but it was always a bad fit for my questioning nature. What promised peace of mind became a source of suffering and confusion, until I finally put it behind me in my mid-thirties, when I stumbled upon a more esoteric view of reality. I discovered that my natural intuitions about God, the Universe, and consciousness were drastically wrong, and this change in perspective had a profoundly life-enriching effect upon me.

The paradigm shift also provoked an interest in parapsychology and the occult. I had the unforgettable memory of bearing witness to a strange phenomenon in my early teens – something I had never fully been able to dismiss as mundane. My new philosophical outlook provided a foundation where extrasensory perception, psychokinesis, even magic, were no longer impossible or irrational. So I undertook my own experiments and achieved small but mind-blowingly real results. This served to reinforce the perspective that consciousness is a much more significant aspect of reality than commonly assumed.

For the best part of the past decade, I’ve been highly motivated to help others overcome their cultural conditioning and get in touch with a deeper view of life. To that end, I am an active vlogger on YouTube, where I discuss religion, spirituality, philosophy, and the occult.

But perhaps the best way to meet Darryl is to watch one of his videos and hear him opine in that beautiful Northern Irish lilt. Here is an example where he talks about some books that have influenced his philosophical ideas.

Darryl’s thoughtful videos, which cover a wide range of subjects, can be found here. You can also learn more about his various creations by visiting his website. Skylight Press is honoured to add Darryl’s wonderful tome, I, Universe, to our list.

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Beyond the Sun by Nick Farrell

BeyondtheSun300Nick Farrell is a prolific esoteric author and journalist who has dedicated his life to the Western Mystery Tradition. He joined the Builders of the Adytum in New Zealand at age 17 and then started to read everything he could find on the Golden Dawn and Magic, eventually moving to Hawkes Bay where he was trained by some of the elderly high-grade members of Whare Ra. He has since moved to Rome where he established a new international Golden Dawn Order, called the Magical Order of Aurora Aurea, which is dedicated to fusing a practical modern magical current to the Golden Dawn system. Among other works, he has written Magical Imagination: The Keys to Magic (also Skylight Press), King over the Water, Mathers’ Last Secret and Mathers’ Last Secret Revised. In this all-new reissue of Beyond the Sun: The History, Teachings and Rituals of the Last Golden Dawn Order, Farrell returns to the source.

Beyond the Sun is both a fascinating history of the last Golden Dawn order as well as an exploration of its various pathways, teachings and rituals. Farrell, in close proximity to the various remnants of the order, illuminates both its formation and survival with various offshoots. The book contains the formerly unpublished ‘Inner Order’ teachings of the missing order of the Golden Dawn, which came to be known Whare Ra. Whare Ra managed to keep secret and above all keep running long after the other Golden Dawn magical orders had given up the ghost. Closing in the late 1970s, the Order was founded by Dr Robert Felkin 100 years ago. From its base in New Zealand, Whare Ra became a secret forefront of occult teaching.

After relaying its history, Farrell then presents the Second Order Rituals of the Order including the 6=5 and 7=4 in their complete and unedited state as well as the 6=5 training papers and lectures. Each ritual is then accompanied by various commentaries of their practitioners, including the 6=5 experiences of the poet WB Yeats and other adepts who went through the various initiations. It also contains numerous magical exercises inspired by the Whare Ra material.

Peregrin Wildoak, author of By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life (Skylight Press), pens a provocative new foreword and has this to say:

“This is a dangerous book: possibly the most dangerous Nick Farrell has ever written. This is quite a statement considering Nick has previously tackled such daring topics as the creation of talismans, journeys to inner planes, advanced magical practices, shamanism, and perhaps most perilous of all, forming magical groups with real human beings whose foibles are only marginally less challenging than confronting a demon before breakfast…”

“The renaissance of the Golden Dawn since the early 1980s – however we view this phenomenon – has reached a point where many temples and groups are requiring and looking for ceremonial motifs and processes ‘beyond the Sun’. This book is, in part, a way of providing some solid and sensible approaches to this task, through methods and ideas formulated and honed down by the longest lasting Golden Dawn temple in the world.”

 Beyond the Sun was originally published by Aurora Aurea via Lulu books in 2013. The first edition was limited to 100 copies and published on the anniversary of Robert Felkin’s death. Skylight Press is thrilled to reissue the book with additional material and diagrams as well as a new foreword. The book can be purchased from our website as well as Amazon and Amazon UK and various other online vendors.

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The Cosmic Doctrine: Essays Inspired by Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine

SparksCosmicFlame300Dion Fortune’s The Cosmic Doctrine is a spiritual work that resulted from a psychic experiment between two friends in Glastonbury, 1923. It has since become one of the most important works in modern esoteric literature and a constant source of inspiration and instruction to many practitioners. Here is an excerpt from the original book jacket:

“Fortune examines the limbo where Science and Magic interact, where the cosmology of the “Big Bang” and chaos theory run parallel to the evolutionary process. She also illustrates the true nature of Good and Evil, which is generally viewed from an individual’s own highly subjective and very personal perspective, and provides further insights into the interaction of the positive and negative polarity within the universal scheme of things.”

Sparks from the Cosmic Flame, then, is a series of essays written by some of those inspired practitioners, which rather than seeking to ‘explain’ the work or re-write it in more modern vernacular, instead develops various and different aspects of its ideas that can be applied to one’s practice. It’s a book about how The Cosmic Doctrine can be used, or perhaps used differently and more flexibly.

Wendy Berg, author of Red Tree, White Tree and Gwenevere and the Round Table (both Skylight publications) has collated a series of illuminating essays by those who share a common enthusiasm for The Cosmic Doctrine and its applicability to contemporary practice.  The contributors include the editor as well as M. E. Beardsley, James North, Stuart Delacey, Dale Kendrick, J.R. Petrie, Derek Thompson, Gwen Blythe, Christian Gilson, Holly Mulhern and Alan Robinson. There is no single or orthodox interpretation but rather a call for individual imagination and intuition, as well as the reasoning mind. It is unlike any other book and the reader will find that the guidance and inspiration of the original Inner Plane communicators are still there to be contacted; the words are the catalyst. One needs only to read a portion of the text and hold the images and concepts in their mind for the magic to work.

Skylight Press, an avid supporter (and publisher) of the work of Dion Fortune from both a literary and practical perspective, is thrilled to introduce this vigorous collection of essays. The book can be ordered from our website, from Amazon or Amazon UK, as well as various other bookshops and vendors.

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Earth God Risen by Alan Richardson

EarthGodRisen300As a master story-teller and crafty novelist, Alan Richardson is the right voice to revisit the legend with its entwining tendrils of history and mythology.  And this particular story becomes all the more prescient as it is told through a conversation between a seasoned magical sophist and his younger exuberant self.  The result is a fascinating two-pronged, double lensed tome – but not without spontaneous wit and self-reflexive humour.

The story of the Horned God can be heard in various mythologies from around the world and like the Goddess he has become part of our psychological and spiritual heritage. The author revisits his previous work on the male mysteries, Earth God Rising, adding a sharp and entertaining new commentary alongside the original text. His expertise on magical matters and its practitioners make for an insightful commentary on male deity – but always prodding readers to forge their own paths and make up their own minds. Earth God Risen is a tour through the origins and archetypes of male spirituality for both new seekers and seasoned practitioners (of both sexes).  Perhaps it is best elucidated by his old teacher and mentor, W.G. Gray:

“Richardson traces the presence of the male aspect of deity in Westerners through ancient Egypt and medieval metaphysics into modern mysticism and his own experience. This he does with scholarly skill and a pleasant fluency. A delight to read and a worthwhile asset to possess. So much has been written of our Primal Goddess that it is refreshing to read of Her consort, the Primal God – which the author eventually finds in himself after looking nearly everywhere else. Adventurous and fascinating.”

Alan Richardson is well known to Skylight Press and it’s readers but for those new to him here is how he describes himself:

Alan Richardson has been writing weird, wonderful, winsome and frequently embarrassing books – not all of which appear on Amazon – for longer than many of his readers have been alive. He has done biographies of such luminaries as Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley, Christine Hartley and William G. Gray. Plus novels and novellas that are all set in his local area. He is also an expert on Earth Mysteries, Mythology, Paganism, Celtic lore, Ancient Egypt, jet fighters, army tanks, Wiltshire tea shops, Great British Actors and Newcastle United Football Club. Although he regards supporting the latter as being the closest thing a man can get to a Near Death Experience. He does not belong to any group or society, does not take pupils, no longer gives lectures, and insists on holding down a full-time job in the real world like any other mortal. That, after all, is part and parcel of the real Path – however it might be defined. He is married with four daughters, and lives the life of a Happy Hermit in the south-west of England. His simple-simple website has long since died but didn’t have much interesting on it anyway. Skylight Press did a nice interview with him here.

You can also hear him talk about Earth God Risen and other books in this recent interview on the Tothermes Podcast.

Skylight Press is thrilled to publish The Testament of Merlin, which can be ordered through Amazon, Amazon UK, or directly via our website.

 

 

 

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The Testament of Merlin by Théophile Briant (trans. Gareth Knight)

9781910098028-Perfect.inddMyrddin is the beloved legendary wizard that has come down to us through the British and French Arthurian legends as well as a smattering of mediaeval Welsh poets. Amalgamated from these many diverse strands, he stands before us as a completed figure in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s great 1136 work, Historia Regum Britanniae. But there are always more sources to explore, some of which are just being translated for wider consumption.

The Testament of Merlin is an evocative esoteric novel that follows the life and work of Merlin as the founder of the Round Table fellowship, his return of Excalibur to the Lake, his safe conduct of Arthur to Avalon, his liaison with Viviane and the Faery powers in the Forest of Broceliande, and the resuscitation of his disciple Adragante in the Cauldron of Keridwen – including a remarkable sequence of initiations for the young knight. For it is Adragante who is called to bear witness to Merlin’s life, his death at the hands of some shepherds at Drumelzier on the Scottish borders, and his subsequent apotheosis. This exquisite offering from Théophile Briant is both an action-packed adventure and page-turner in the conventional fiction sense – as well as an esoteric work of depth and scope for practitioners in the Western Mystery Traditions. Much of this new translation is of great contemporary relevance in the present clash of Christian and Neo-Pagan dynamics.

Known affectionately as ‘poète de la mer,’ Théophile Briant needs no introduction in France: from an old windmill and lighthouse in Brittany he published, between 1936 and his death in 1956, a remarkable journal (Le Goëland, or The Seagull) devoted to poetry, the arts and the esoteric. A great enthusiast of all things Breton and Celtic, he spent twelve years writing this powerfully esoteric novel, which was not published until nineteen years after his death and amazingly has not appeared in English until now. A perfect conduit for such a revelation, Gareth Knight is one of the world’s foremost authorities the Western Mystery Tradition and author of other respected grail lore books including Merlin and the Grail Tradition, The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend, and The Fairy Gates of Avalon. The Testament of Merlin is another of Knight’s important translations, which include The Romance of the Faery Melusine (André Lebey’s 1920s novel exploring the work of 15th Century trouvere, Jean d’Arras) and The Initiations of Paul Sédir (an important figure of the late 19th century occult renaissance in France).

Skylight Press is thrilled to publish The Testament of Merlin, which can be ordered through Amazon, Amazon UK, or directly via our website

 

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A Chest of Viols: A Brief Introduction to English Viol Consort Music

Viola_da_gambaAs a cellist and guitarist I have always thought the perfect instrument to be the Viola da Gama, a gut-fretted instrument tuned like a guitar but played like a cello. As with most aficionados my introduction to the instrument came through the 1991 French film, Tous Les Matins du Monde, which introduced two famous Gambist composers to the general public, Jean de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais. The soundtrack to that film still serves as a beautiful introduction to the solo repertoire – but the instrument had quite a storied and uniquely English period before that. I have been academically aware of the Viol Consort music of the Tudor court composers but could never find recordings or a means to sample them. Thanks to recent developments in the Early Music movement, ensembles like Fretwork and the emergence of YouTube – all that has changed. In early 2015 I listened to nothing but Viol Consort music for about 2 months, working my way my way through all the recordings I could find by such composers as William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, John Jenkins, William Lawes, Matthew Locke and Christopher Tye. It’s hard to put into words the effect this music had but I found it deeply contemplative, almost timeless, to the point where no other music seemed to exist. There was just something about the drone quality of several viols played together, the way the intervals and cadences seem to hover and glide tectonically – gravitational and infinitely pleasing. It was a period of great musical flowering in England, an era of vastly interesting composers (William Lawes died tragically while fighting in the English civil war), with rooms throbbing with sonic and spiritual gravitas.

But first, a general introduction the viola da gamba is in order (quoted from http://beth.marmorstein.org)

d5238383lThe viol originated in Spain, but was later introduced in Italy, where it was developed and improved. From Italy it gained popularity and was spread to the rest of Europe. Viols first reached England sometime in the early 16th century, the first two viols being employed as a part of the royal court during the reign of Henry VIII. Over the course of Henry VIII’s reign, the role of the viols in the English royal court grew to include 25 instruments and at least 8 musicians. The music played by viol consorts in this period was generally not written specifically for the viol, but rather consisted of short, textless, polyphonic consorts written without any instrumental specifications. Unfortunately, very little of this music has survived. At first, most of the court viol players were born and trained in Italy, or elsewhere in Europe, but in the early 1540’s native Englishmen and Scotsmen began to take up the viol. As the viol gained prominence in the royal court, viols also began to appear in private households, primarily among the nobility, who were anxious to keep up with the tastes of the crown. These private households drew musicians from several sources: some instructed their servants to learn to play the viol, some apprenticed local musicians, and some recruited foreigners. At the same time, the viol began to be considered an instrument well suited to teaching children. The concerts given by children in schools such as St Paul’s and Westminister exposed the viol to a much wider audience. During this period, English composers began to write music for viols specifically, possibly due to the demand for viol music created by choirboys and their masters. As the years passed, viols were used more and more in theatrical presentations by choirboy companies and soon began to be used by adult companies as well, providing incidental music for dumb shows between acts or during important moments during the drama. This use of viols in theatrical productions contributed to the introduction of the viol to many remote locations. As these choirboys grew up and dispersed to various colleges, careers, and private households, they contributed to the adoption of viol playing by amateurs and the instruction of children in private households, who then in turn provided an appreciative audience for new developments in viol consort music in the early 17th century…
(The rest of the article can be found here)

There have been many interesting and sweeping periods of English music, including a couple of well-known ‘invasions’ of our own time. Just as we English took the Blues, repackaged it, and sold it back to the US – so too did we piece together consort music from European sources and popularised it in a new and interesting context. Here is a brief introduction to elements of consort music from the website http://www.hoasm.org:

maxresdefaultThe instrumental ensembles of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were called in England ‘consorts’, a misspelling of ‘concert’ which, like ‘concerto’, probably comes from the Latin verb consererewith its past participle consertus, meaning ‘to combine together’. Consorts were either ‘whole’ or ‘broken,’ the former and by far the most popular consisting of members of the same family, as ‘consort of viols’ or ‘consort of recorders’, and the latter of various instruments, as in Morley’s Booke of Consort Lessons (1599), which is ‘scored’ for treble and bass viols, flute (=recorder), lute, cittern, and pandora. The practice of playing in ‘whole consort’ began in fact in the latter part of the fifteenth century, but this did not become widespread until the following century. Most consort music is for treble, alto, tenor, and bass viols, and the two main types of composition are the fantasia, and that based on a cantus firmus. Of the latter the In nomines easily exceed not only other cantus firmus pieces, but also the number of In nomines written for the keyboard or lute , the reason being that this type of composition is a fundamentally polyphonic one, and hence lends itself more naturally to, and indeed sounds better on, a group of strings than on a single instrument, even an organ. Polyphony, in fact, is a far more essential constituent of extended string writing (as Haydn discovered after he had written a number of string quartets) than any other class of vocal or instrumental composition, because, being completely abstract (i.e. no words) and with only a limited range of timbre, the ear requires more than just accompanied melody, although this is perfectly satisfactory in short pieces, such as dance movements. This fact also explains the greater number of fantasias for strings than for keyboard or lute, because the. fantasia consists, in the main, of imitative polyphony and, like the cantus-firmus type, usually differs little in technique and style from the contemporary motet or madrigal. In some of the later fantasias, however, especially those of Gibbons–the greatest master of this type of composition–the writing is decidedly instrumental in character, with rapid, repeated notes and wide leaps, and with more complex cross-rhythms and frequent use of sequence than in any vocal music of the time… (The rest of the article can be found here)

Thankfully, more and more of the viol consort repertoire is becoming available. A short introduction can be found at http://www.earlymusicworld.com:

8a2207ea58c74aa0b7d78f9f24ab33bfOne thing we can say with certainty is that the repertoire is more extensive than we might imagine from the designated music for viol consort that survives, given that much of what we today consider as the great consort repertoire had still to be written – the works of such as Gibbons, as Jenkins, William Lawes, Locke and of course Purcell all lay in the future. In fact the foundation of the viol consort repertoire existed not in works composed especially for it, but in the rich tradition of contrapuntal vocal music that lay waiting for transposition by consorts. This debt to vocal music would play an enduring role long after composers moved beyond simple transposition to parody or reworked versions of vocal compositions and examples of it can be found in such works as Tallis’ 3-part Salvator mundi or some of the many transcriptions of Italian madrigals and motets made by Bologna-born Alfonso Ferrabosco the elder (1543-1588), who arrived and England in 1562 and served at the court of Elizabeth I for nearly twenty years…
(The rest of the article can be found here)

The-English-ViolOf course, listening to low resolution recordings on YouTube gets old after a while – and amassing any sort of CD collection will quickly run into the hundreds. A good place to start is simply to acquire a few sample recordings by ensembles committed to making period music more available, like Fretwork. The English Viol and Heart’s Ease are wonderful introductory CDs that include consort works by the top composers of the period. I just hope your listening experience is as deep and rewarding as mine.

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Who the Hell is Jan Karon? Books and the Temporality of value

Jan-KaronLike many bibliophiles I’m well acquainted with all the nooks and crannies by which one might come across used books at a bargain. Indeed, my house is well insulated with walls of books mostly found at jumble shops, thrift stores, garage sales, used bookshop bargain bins, library blow-outs and even the odd car boot sale. I frequent all the local grottos and scour boxes or shelves for the odd treasure, much of the time returning home empty-handed for all my craning and sifting. And I’ll be damned that in every single instance, without fail, I not only find one book by a certain Jan Karon – but a veritable slew of them. Who the hell is Jan Karon – and how bad must she be to have all these numerous tomes gumming up the used-book works?

To be fair there is also usually a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love somewhere in the mix, or a few bricks of Dan Brown’s da Vinci Code propping up the shelves. And you can bet your mortgage that something by Janet Evanovich, Annie Rice or Dean Koontz will be loitering, dog-eared, in the corners. With such ubiquity you could be excused for thinking that there is something deficient with these (albeit rather famous) writers for being in every discard/resale bin and perhaps in some cases you’d be right. A quick googling of the ever-present Jan Karon, however, tells me that she is a New York Times best-seller and Virginia’s Literary Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Just maybe she is preciously absent from the bargain bins of Virginia then (one can hope!). But I think this phenomenon has more to do with how the commercial fiction publishing operates with its frenzied print-runs and viral marketing ploys.

booksfillthescreenTemporality is now more than ever the name of the game. Everything from your washing machine to your toaster to your car is manufactured to short-term specifications – and commercial book publishers have adopted the same ethos. We know that, of the above examples, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was a top, top seller, literally churned out into the market place in 2003. It was then translated into 52 languages and garnered some hundred million sales within a couple of years, generating a little cottage industry of spin-offs and rebuttals along the way. This is the sort of ‘success’ that writers crave and yet it seems than many of his buyers decided to dump their copies, which are now vermin to resale shops. Of course, this is no skin off Mr. Brown’s nose as he’s already amassed a tidy fortune from the first-go-round sales. It’s fun to imagine that his readers, upon reading this mystery-spinner, found themselves agreeing with Stephen Fry’s damning edict that his writing is “arse-gravy of the worst kind” – but the truth is probably more mundane. Books, and particularly commercial novels, are now marketed toward a short-term explosion of interest followed by an abrupt death and discarding. They are designed to excite fever-pitch fervor – generate the quick-fire sale – but then end up in the same donation box as the failing toaster.

It is a pleasure, then, to be involved with a press that aims for the long-term, the slow and steady selling book that remains viable and relevant. This is not to disparage the Jan Karons of the world – but to elevate the author beyond the lurid state of temporal commodity value. ‘Shelf-life’ should be a literary determination not some corporate remaindering principle normally assigned to household appliances.

 

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