One of the most influential occultists of the 20th Century, Gareth Knight (Basil Wilby) has died at his Essex home on 1 March, he was 91.
While less well known across the pond, it is hard to find a place in the Western Mystery Tradition where Gareth Knight and his ideas did not touch.
He trained in Dion Fortune’s Society of the Inner Light and his follow-up to her Mystical Qabalistic, Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism is still the go-to textbook for the Golden Dawn-based Cabbalistic system. In many ways, Knight was the public interpreter of Fortune providing many footnotes and making her unpublished works accessible. He was also her biographer.
In his long life, he wrote more than 40 books covering topics as diverse as Qabalah, history of magic, Arthurian legend, Rosicrucianism, Tarot, the Inklings (Tolkien, C.S.Lewis et al) and the Feminine Mysteries, as well as several practical books on ritual magic.
There are different magical groups, including the Servants of the Light, which followed his approach. For a while, I called it the Inner Light Tradition, but that is downplaying Knight’s own influence which can be seen in the work of Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Marian Green, Josephine McCarthy, Wendy Berg, Bob Stewart, Alan Richardson and many others.
When I started magic in the 1980s, Knights books were among the few which captured an authentic flavour of magic and esotericism. There was a certain “hands-on” about his approach to British mythology and In short, he was someone who knew what he was talking about with experience. He was one of the few who actually published the results of his workings.
He steadfastly remained true to his contacts, which took him down a long line of different magical experiences, firmly based on Christian magic. When I met him in the 1990s at a workshop he had a very interesting take on science which had become too complex for modern magicians to touch its hem. In a Manchester workshop in 1995 which referenced Dante’s inferno, he pointed out that for thousands of years humanity had believed in an earth centred universe and from the perspective of a human living on earth still worked that way.
I asked: “So modern science’s concept that we are worthless, semi-intelligent fluff, attached to a tiny spec of dust floating in an infinite ocean of emptiness is a dead end?”
“It is more than that, it is what the creature in the block of ice wants you to think,” Knight replied.
He never stopped writing and told me he would keep doing so while he still had something to say. I even got the chance to work on some of his books through different publishing companies. It was rumoured that he was working on an updated Practical Guide which he felt had become dated, particularly on its views about homosexuality. It did not appear to have happened.
Over the years we kept in touch, on and off and I was honoured that he gave me support for the projects I did, even when they were a long way from his work. He helped his daughter form Skylight Press which produced two of my books “Magical Imagination” and “Beyond the Sun.”
While there is no way I would have been lucky enough to call him a friend, my work, along with many others in the modern occult field would have been a lot harder were it not for the trail he blazed in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
The ripples of his life will be felt for many centuries to come.